Arabs And Muslims Give Obama Benefit Of Doubt On New Way

January 21, 2009

Author: Jonathan Wright

Source: The Washington Post

Wire Service: Reuters

Arabs and Muslims gave the benefit of some doubt on Wednesday to U.S. President Barack Obama's offer of "a new way forward" with the Muslim world, but many said it would take deeds rather than words to convince them.

After eight years of President George W. Bush, who invaded two Muslim countries and gave strong support to Israel, Arabs and Muslims watched Obama's inaugural speech on Tuesday closely for any sign that U.S. policy toward them will change.

With some exceptions on the fringes, a clear majority said they welcomed a new tone from Obama, who promised relations based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

"This is a speech that reflected a new spirit of dialogue, reaching out and working together. This is a new direction that is certainly not what the Bush administration has been pursuing," said former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.

Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University of Beirut, noted Obama's reference to Muslims as a significant part of the patchwork of the United States, an attitude not common in U.S. political discourse.

"The fact that he mentioned Muslims means a lot. This is a symbolic gesture to the Muslim world that they are part of the world. He's inclusive," he said.

In Britain, the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain welcomed Obama's offer of new relations with the Muslim world.