President Obama’s June 4 speech in Cairo was widely hailed as a new start for the troubled relationship between the West and the Muslim world. Reactions to the speech were mostly positive when we stopped by the Islamic Information Center on South Maryland Parkway to chat with several men coming out of their evening prayer.
“Obama in his speech really spoke to the Muslim mind,” says Yasser Moten, formerly with the Council on American Islamic Relations. “He was using words from the Koran. Using these rhetorical techniques helped me identify with his message. If I could sum it up in one word, his speech was a turning point.” Specifically, a turning point from eight years of rhetoric from the Bush administration, which, Moten says, “created a worldview of enlightened Western civilization against a backward, barbaric Islamic world that was misogynist, anti-democratic and xenophobic. And Obama’s New Beginning speech destroyed that worldview.”
UNLV graduate student Ahmed Saad notes that it was a “very good step, reflecting good intentions,” but was troubled by Obama’s reference to the 3,000 innocents who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack. “How many innocent people were killed in Iraq before 9/11?” he asks, in reference to UN sanctions during the ’90s. “So why do you mention the 3,000 but not the 500,000 before 9/11? I won’t mention the millions after 9/11. You should mention both sides.” (Note: The number of casualties caused by sanctions is contested, with estimates ranging from a few hundred thousand to well over a million.)