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Jumat, 21 Januari 2011

Obama’s speech : Skepticism vs Optimism

By. ZALZULIFA (student’s assignment supervised by lecturer : DR. Abdul Mukti)

This article is about my proposal on facing skepticism and optimism in Obama’s commitment to be a problem solver in facing the issue of unity within diversity among the west and the east part of the world. My proposal is of course based on the critical analysis of Obama’s speech at Cairo University, 2009 supported by some comments of political actors that have been published through electronic and printed media. During the American Presidency’s election (2008), an ex Chairman of Muhammadiyah Centre Amien Rais at once Metro TV’s interview ever reminded the Indonesia citizen not to be over optimistic and over pessimistic to Obama’s competency in making unity among diversity especially toward Islamic perception in the world. Amien’s comment of course derived from the Obama’s silence in looking at Israel’s barbaric holocaust to Palestinians during three months before the end of George’s Bush Presidency. The world communities showed how Israel neglected the world’s voice even it came from the United Nation Organization, the Israel’s army continually killed thousand people consisting of woman, man, kids and youngster by using sophisticated war weapons in responding traditional rocket of Palestenians who have been struggling for getting peace life at their own land. Seeing this it is warmly understood why Amien suggested Indonesian citizen as a big amount of Islamic world to be rational instead of emotional in waiting the Obama’s step of actions.

Learning from Obama’s speech at Cairo University, on June 4th, 2009 it can be summarized into seven parts, such as: violent extremism, the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, nuclear weapon with a reference to Iran, democracy, religious freedom, woman, and economic development. The president Obama opened his speech seeking a common ground between Muslims and the USA, quoting from the Quran “Be conscious of God and always speak the truth”. In general, Obama’s speech called for improved mutual understanding and relations between the Islamic world and the West. He said both should do more to confront violent extremism. However, it was Obama’s call for peace between Israel and Palestinians that cut the highest profile. Obama reaffirmed America’s alliance with Israel by saying their mutual bond “unbreakable”, but he also described Palestinian statelessness as “intolerable” and recognizing their aspirations for statehood and dignity as legitimate—just as legitimate as Israel’s desire for a Jewish homeland.1 The speech was highly anticipated and generally acclaimed by the Muslim world, approved through critical comments of both skepticism and optimism.

Let’s see first from skeptical view. That is on 3 June, Al-Qaeda released a video in which Osama Bin Laden strongly criticized Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East, saying that “Barack Obama followed the steps of his predecessor in antagonizing Muslims … and laying the foundation for long wars.” He also added that “Obama and his administration have sowed new seeds of hatred against America.” One day before, a video of Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri was posted to extremist websites, in which the leader criticized Obama’s policy, declaring “his bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or by farcical visits or elegant words.”2 President Obama was also criticized by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who delivered a speech in the 20th anniversary of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death, a few hours before Barack Obama’s speech. He commented on the pending U.S. President’s speech declaring: “The nations of this part of the world… deeply hate America. Even if they give sweet and beautiful [speeches] to the Muslim nation that will not create change. Action is needed.”3
After seeing from the skeptical view, then let’s see from the optimism view. It was Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas described the speech as “clear and frank… an innovative political step.” Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhum also welcomed the speech, saying “It had many contradictions, all the while reflecting tangible change”. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, hailed the speech, saying it “was balanced and offered a new vision of rapprochement regarding relations with Islamic states.”4 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the speech was “direct, significant and brave appeal in which President Obama elucidated his vision and important universal principles, which he wishes to share with the Muslim world”, and Israeli President Shimon Peres said the speech was “full of vision, a brave speech demanding a commitment to hard work on all sides involved in the promotion of the peace process in the Middle East…The idea of peace was born in the Middle East as the basis of the three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and the sons of Abraham must join hands in order to take on this challenge together, a sustainable peace in the Middle East.”5

Most commentators, especially in the Middle Eastern press welcomed Obama‘s speech, hoping it would lay the ground for concrete action. Particularly from Brussels, Javier Solana, European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy chief, praised the speech saying “It was a remarkable speech, a speech that without any doubt is going to open a new page in the relation with the Arab-Muslim world and I hope in the problems we have in so many theatres in the region.5 ” United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon spoke of “the opening of a new chapter in relations between the United States and the Islamic world.” The Vatican also welcomed the speech saying it “went beyond political formulas, evoking concrete common interests in the name of a common humanity”6

Nevertheless the Obama’s speech, I think we should consider rational in order to build mutual understanding among all civilizations in the world. So that’s why I agree with what Amien says at the beginning, let’s wait and see the real steps of Obama. One thing that support our mind is the willingness of Obama showed in his speech approves as the new generation spirit of American people. Last but not least, putting our medium site of position doesn’t mean that we are unstable or hypocrite, but it is typically of Islamic lesson in order to be ummatan washatan as Muhammadiyah often plays it’s role at every moment in facing conflicts. So that is Muhammadiyah’s ideology, God will bless and pray for Obama’s life and safety. Bravo Obama! Keep continuing your effort! and share welfare all over the world.

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