A reader writes:
I was struck by the fact that, although Obama mentioned the Sunni-Shi’a divide within Islam in his Cairo speech, he did not mention the much broader, and rarely discussed, chasm within Islam between Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims. He didn’t have to because in a sense he embodies it, at least at one step removed. He’s the American Christian son of a father with African Muslim roots who spent part of his formative years in Indonesia. And he chose to give his speech from the country where Arab/Persian Islam meets African Islam no wonder the Saudis were ticked off. (And he skillfully smoothed that over with his pre-speech visit to Saudi Arabia.)
By choosing the location he did for his speech, he was making a statement about where he sees the center of gravity of Islam to be or, perhaps, “fulcrum” would be a better word.
I don’t know how this is going to turn out I don’t think anyone does. But part of me wonders whether 100 years from now we’ll look back on the fact that the American people didn’t allow themselves to be scared by his name, as everyone in the world expected us to be, and as a consequence put exactly the right person in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to change the dialogue on one of the most intractable problems in human history in a way that no one else could, and conclude that this was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
I am steeled for disappointment. This is the Middle East, after all. But I refuse to wallow in cynicism about this. This president has helped me grow a little past that. The truth is: Israel needs an honest friend; and the Iranian people need an honest broker. I think Obama is offering himself - and his country - for both positions. He may be turned down. But that he tried: that will resonate for many years.
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