Sunday, February 24, 2008

Muslims: They Love Obama, They Love Him Not

Apparently both are true--take a look at Lee Smith's post on Michael Totten's blog: The Arabs and Obama. He quotes from a report on a conference in Qatar that the Gulf states are just wild about Obama:
A friend from the Gulf tells me her young relative was so excited about the Democratic candidate that he tried to donate money over the Internet, as he'd heard so many young Americans were doing. Then he found out he had to be a U.S. citizen to do so. Another young woman, visiting from next-door Saudi Arabia, said that all her friends in Riyadh are “for Obama.” The symbolism of a major American presidential candidate with the middle name of Hussein, who went to elementary school in Indonesia, certainly speaks to Muslims abroad.
There is an obvious logic to that. After all:
Barack Obama's father was Muslim and therefore, according to Islamic law, so is the candidate. In spite of the Quranic verses explaining that there is no compulsion in religion, a Muslim child takes the religion of his or her father.
This would seem to fit in nicely with Barack Obama's campaign since
one of the chief conceits of the Obama campaign is that a president of his biological identity will redeem our reputation around the world after George Bush enflamed the better part of humanity by invading two Muslim countries.
But not all Muslims are equally impressed. On the contrary:
there's already evidence that some Middle Easterners, or the people in whose part of the world the United States has expended vast human and material resources over the last six years, are not impressed with Obama.
There is criticism that Obama's approach to developing dialog and consensus in Lebanon shows a degree or ignorance:
Readers of this blog will find this painfully hilarious, and possibly indicative of Obama's ignorance of the situation in Lebanon. ..What kind of diplomacy that has not been tried before by the "Europeans and Arab allies" will help Lebanon? I am not going to defend the Bush administration's policy in Lebanon. It may reek of "empty slogans" at times, but how does talking to criminals create solutions? And pray explain how supporting the Hariri tribunal, as Obama said he does, can be reconciled with chatting up the ones who killed him?
Lebanese journalist Michael Young and Iraqi blogger Iraqpundit are quoted in their reservations of Obama advisor Samantha Power. Power's strong anti-Israel bent is noted by Powerline (here, here, and here) and by Noah Pollak at Contentions. Young and Iraqpundit, though, find Power equally off the mark about the Middle East in general. Smith sums it up:
The self-described “Genocide Chick” seems to them insufficiently concerned that an American withdrawal from Iraq will lead to genocide. Her solution? Move people from one area to another and give money to Iraq's neighbors to stabilize the country. You can't blame her for basically parroting the egregiously cynical recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, but in reality this means that US forces should be complicit in the sectarian cleansing of Iraq and pay off countries like Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia that have themselves funded and supported death squads targeting Iraqi Shias, Kurds and Sunnis as well as US troops.

It's true that the Lebanese and Iraqis have benefited, and suffered, more than anyone from the Bush White House's regional transformation program, so you can't hold it against them if they're more interested in a man's ideas than in the faith he professes or the color of his skin.

The bottom line is that the reaction of the Arab world to Bush was based on one thing alone--his policies as he enacted them. Smith concludes about the Arab world in general that:
What made them like or dislike Bush wasn't the color of the president's skin or his religious faith, but his ideas. It's not clear to me why Americans seem now to be trying to export a very un-American idea - that a man's color and his faith matter.
Read the whole thing.

In the Arab world as well, there is something to be said for substance.

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