June 05, 2009

A lesson in Flirting

Assume you are a bitter single. You have been in a long abusing relation that ended magically but you are still suffering from the consequences. Assume you are sitting alone in your regular place sipping your own misery with your drink. Assume that you were too traumatized to even look around for potential candidates. Then out of the blue someone came smiling.

What if this someone took the step and came to where you were silently sat for maybe years. What if this someone started saying the things you have wanted to hear? What if this someone started doing the unexpected “expected”. Praising what you know he would be praising, promising things without really promising and finally concluded the grand gesture with offering to buy you a drink.

Would you turn this offer down?

That was exactly what president Obama did in his speech addressing the Muslim world. He gave a lesson on how to flirt without selling yourself short.
The speech came with the Obama guarantee. It was as enjoyable as any of his speeches. It came as everyone secretly expected. Because no one wanted to place high hopes on an American president.

It was tricky advancing the highly diversified Muslim world. But the speech actually had something for everyone. It was promising yet disappointing. It promised everyone what he secretly wished for but without granting this wish.
It was a very well balanced speech that addressed the major areas of conflict. It was a very smart speech because it focused on the commonalities. It was very wise because it asserted that it is not a commitment it is just to show good will.

The speech is a grand gesture that means a lot regardless the vague promises. (Personally I don’t see them as vague. He just promised the things he can do but promised to try with the things he can try. He also stated it is a cooperation not a one sided relation)
It was a grand gesture choosing “
Cairo”. It was really a smart choice. It is one of the oldest Islamic Capitals. It played one of the biggest roles in the Islamic history especially in critical times. Actually few Islamic Capitals could compete with Cairo in that field. Medina the prophet’s capital comes first in importance but unfortunately non-Muslims aren’t allowed in (though there is no religious reason to do). Next come Baghdad & Damascus. Both were the capitals of the great Islamic Empire. But because of the wisdom of Mr. W, Baghdad is temporarily out of service and addressing anything from Damascus isn’t an option. Istanbul would have made a perfect choice too but unfortunately Ataturk decided to take it out of competition. Plus Cairo has Al Azhar with everything that it represents.
Cairo was grand gesture not only for the historical value but also to imply the importance of Egypt in the region. Again, the US-Islam problem is mainly Arabic. And to tackle an Arabic problem there is no better place than Egypt.

So, why make history? Some said that the economical crisis has pushed him towards the Arab money. But in my humble believe if he was after the Arab money he would have given the speech in Riyadah, Kuwait, or even Doha. If he was after the money he would have gone to it. But he came to where there is no money. He came to where politics is made. Which will leave the question unanswered, why approaching the Muslim world?
Simply he is doing it for the same reasons Bush started his crusade.

Before the visit,
Mohaly posted a video that I personally found offensive. In that video someone was warning the west from the Islamic danger. According to the video in few years the majority of the world will be Muslims. And this according to the video is catastrophic.

I found the video offensive because I live in a world with a majority of Christians yet I don’t feel compromised. I found the video offensive because I couldn’t see how terrorism means Islam in the time others excelled at it. The Muslim victims of Islamic terrorism are more than victims from other religions. Through history we will find that the number of non-Muslim terrorist out numbers the number of Muslim ones. So, why Islam is viewed a religion of terror?!

The answer is simple. A majority of Muslims means a change in how things are being done in the world. Not only because majority will elect people who will impose laws representing their interests. Because even if the majority didn’t change the law, the change in the personal choice of persons will change how a community function.
So, imagine Amsterdam, for example, in few years with no beer, no red street and no pot smoking in the streets! Some will think this will be a better Amsterdam and some are convinced that this is a loss of culture.

So, it is a cultural fight! It is what we may call the Islamic conservatism that scares the world. But is it really only culture?! Europe has gone through a massive cultural change to become the Europe we know now. They became the Europe they are now when they managed to lock God back in the Church. They locked the God the Catholic Church represented. They locked the limitations on innovations in the name of God. They locked the forces that tried to keep Europe in the dark along with God in the church.

So, the idea of getting God back out of the safe locked place should sound scary. And fighting change is instinct. And as Arabs and Muslims all over the world are fighting the change happening in their cultures, it is the west’s right to defend its cultural heritage. They have the right to defend the openness that will be compromised if Islamic conservatism was introduced. This very same conservatism worries many Muslims about the ability of the Islamic world to follow the world progress.

Through history there is only one lesson people keep forgetting. A war with a different cultural doesn’t preserve yours. In many cases wars were the way cultural change was introduced. So the previous American administration wasn’t really that wise putting the USA in war with Islam.

That war gave Islam an unintended exposure, the exposure that increased the risk of the cultural change the west dreaded.
So, if Islam is really inevitable. There should be a way to soften the change, hence the speech.

Now back to where we started, the nice someone making a grand gesture at us has his own issues too. We are sitting sipping our misery. And then we have this chance for a drink and a nice company. Nothing promised. Commitment is far beyond imagination. But there is potential if both parties worked hard enough. Would you smile back and accept the drink or would you just keep slowly sipping the bitterness of the past?!

Personally, I will go for the drink. As long as I am not selling myself short or putting high hopes. As long as I know that if a relation is to come it is a two parties’ work. I guess the drink will be perfect.

Mr. President, thanks for the lesson.

For everyone who said that these are just words and we want action isn’t it a bit early for action? and even if these were just words at least he showed respect and this is rare. I know Egyptians who won’t even say they are pleased to be in Cairo. The guy said he was honored. He could have used many other words to describe happiness but he was honored to be in the city disrespected by its own inhabitants.
The guy showed understanding for Islam that some Muslims don’t show. He didn’t only address the Muslims he actually addressed people around the world. People around the world know now that Islam has another side. People around the world now know that Muslims has the right to practice their religion and Islamic prayer isn’t a ritual done before bombing a plane.
Which part of this speech can’t eradicate decades of conflict didn’t you get?!


jessyz said...

I like your analogy and your analysis. I am more on the pessimistic side, but I do agree, we need to do more on our side. I also love that you mentioned that he said he was honored and how that the inhabitants of Cairo do not feel the same way. I have lots of conflicting thoughts and feelings on the whole issue, but I enjoyed the post.

Aly said...

What sealed the deal for me was this statement: "America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable." This summarizes all what's wrong with American middle east foreign policy. Well, Mr. Obama, why should we accept that? How is that in sync with American values?

Obama started his speech talking about the stereotype of the US as an imperialist empire, and reminds us that the US was built on a revolution for freedom. Thirty minutes later, he demands Palistinians abandon violence, because it is not the moral high road (without even mentioning that 1400 innocent people were killed by Israeli aggressions pretty much under his watch). Now, pray tell: Did George Washington and the founding fathers hold peaceful demonstrations and ask Europe to mediate their negotiations for freedom and independence, or did they fight for it? Was Washington a terrorist then? Didn't black people in South Africa use armed resistance to break away from bondage?

Now, moving on to Iraq and Afghanistan. On the one hand, he promised withdrawal by 2012, a commendable move, but hardly impressive seeing the public opinion in the US demanding it. And of course, after you cause the death of 800000 civilians and the displacement of 3 million, the least you can do is apologize; that never came. Contradictory, in a manner only possible for the government in Orwell's 1984, he wants to increase the troop count in Afghanistan. Not only that, but the number of civilians killed in American raids has increased since his inauguration, and now border areas in Pakistan are legitimate targets as well.

As for democracy, women and minority rights, Obama came to Mubarak's Egypt from Saudi Arabia where he "praised the wisdom of King Abdallah". Need I say more?

Om HAGAR said...

I was away from my blogger fellows for a long time but here I returned & found your nice post.

Really I liked it & I agree with you that we should get over our misery & the conflict between us and the Western world & work to make the better.

Also I agree with you that Obama won't do anything to help us unlesswe worked for ourselves at the beginning.

He said so in his speech. He said that he can't do anything alone & that we have to work together.

In fact he didn't say anything that it isn't in our religion. our Religion teaches us to work at the begining to find the results no one will do anything in behalf of us & Allah won't sent us the rewards we want untill we worked hard for ourselves..

only one thing I don't agree with you. for sure I know that the Europeans think that Islam will destroy the opennes they worked hard to have in their world but, it is a wrong idea & we as muslims should work hard to change it.

Islam means openness really it is just it forbids the wrong deeds which, if we looked throughly will find that it harms us a lot.

Any way I liked the speech of Mr. Obama & hope that the better will happen to all of us.

Shimaa Gamal said...

I am flattered :) So, happy you liked the post.
I am usually on the pessimistic side of things but these days I am following a new approach. I am focusing on the full part of the glass.

Plus, I found a great resemblance between his speech and Sadat's speech in Israel.
When Sadat gave that speech everyone was skeptical. Even till now people are doubting if it was the right thing. But no one can deny that thanks to him we are not at war. Egyptian women see their children die of other things than guns.

So, who knows!

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Aly
1st thanks for visiting.

As for the parts you included, I completely agree with you that he might have ignored some facts in favor of others.

Actually one of the things that I really liked about his speech was admitting the strategic relation between the US and Israel.
It was like a married man admitting to a woman he likes that he has other commitment. Men do that all time and sometimes the affair works best for all parties.

The man will be happy, yet guilty for cheating on his wife so he will make it up to her with more gifts. As for the other lady, she could also benefit from such a relation. But only if she knew what she wanted :)

I know the example might sound completely out of context. But I believe the startegic relation between the USA and Israel could be described as a catholic marraige. Divorce isn't an option.
And we are the other woman. The other woman could either be smart and get whatever she wants or be a doormat and it is actually up to how she uses her skills.

Again, we will see :)

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Om Hagar
Welcome back to the cyber space :)

As for the openness of Islam. We, Muslims can see how open Islam is. But you can't make other people think the same way.
At least not in the way we Muslims make Islam look like now.

Islamic conservatisim/ liberalism needs a whole post :) ISA will try writing about it soon

Sherif said...

Your analysis is so objective ..

yet what was given is two part speech. The first is " at your request" in which what is said is exactly what you want to hear. which numbs you feelings.

The second is, once you are narcotized tells what are requested to do.

In conclusion, this is the adorable new look of the old ugly face of an American.

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Sherif

This is actually what I loved about the speech and what made me think it was nothing but flirting.
He gave us what we need to hear in the time he showed that he already has an agenda ...

As for seeing this speech as sugar coating the bitter old American reality. I believe that there is a good reason for sugar coating anything, it makes it easier to sollow. Q.E.D

I believe that cautious is needed and so is openness but attacking the man and the speech and being skeptical about the intension will lead to nothing but holding the already bad position.

LiL^OrioN said...

interesting posts.

all i can say is, only time can tell. =)

but being brought up in a muslim world, Obama knows well how to flirt with words to a muslim community.

i don't believe the man can achieve what past presidents can't. but, at least he's making an effort. and that's a great move, in my opinion.

islam is an open religion. it's just people who don't understand it can't appreciate how open and flexible it is.

and yeah, islam is not a religion by the sword. the prophet saw never ever condone this. by right, it is only when a non-muslim fully understands the religion and has cleared all his doubts, then that is then he should revert. instead, you get muslims who don't understand the religion and then abusing it.

but, no religion is free from its bad apples. i believe in good Christians and Jews out there. =)

just reminded me of a song..
"What we need
Is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world
And all it's got
Keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
Turning out
Coffee coloured people by the score"

spread the love people! we really have got to be in harmony with one another!

my dream world - the end of politics. =p

Shimaa Gamal said...

Amen to the end of politics :)
This world will be a better place if people stopped fighting over nothing.
And I agree, only time can tell. But at least we should give time a chance :)
It is too early to give up, especially there won't other ways out!