Believe it or not, we live in a multicultural and diverse world.
A world with Muslim Americans, Christian Palestinians, and Jewish Iranians. A world where a woman can lead the biggest Muslim-majority country, where a Hussein can lead America (which by the way is not a Christian country*), and where an Israeli leader is allowed to survive a few hours after signing a peace agreement with an Arab or Palestinian leader.
Barack Hussein Obama delivered his first State of the World Union address in Cairo**.
A great and powerful speech, without any surprise as far as the content was concerned. But I guess much will be said about its form, around 7 points (a number rich of symbols in all religions) :
Priority given to "violent extremism in all of its forms". In a nutshell : "We reject as false the choice between the Bush Doctrine and the Qaeda Doctrine"***. Yes, dear reader, we're definitely heading towards a Universal Declaration of Independence from Fundamentalism. And U-Turn is not an option, because "violence is a Dead End".
Second point : solving the first point will be much easier once we settle the issues between "Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world" (note the address to the peoples, beyond the states)
Third point : North Korean and Iranian leaders must read Sun Tzu and Stan Lee. "With great powers come great responsibilities", said Uncle Ben to Peter Parker. In That One's mouth, it comes like this : uh... lllook, let's consider the "rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons".
Issue #4 : Democracy. A beautiful word, which the new POTUS doesn't want to define nor to force into other countries (leaving that to his predecessor). He does expose clear directions, though : "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people." The perfect message ahead of the Iranian elections, stressed by this spectacular act of contrition on behalf of the American people : "the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government". Change is coming to the CIA as well...
The 5th branch of this verbal Menorah is "religious freedom". But not as the "freedom of proselytization" envisioned by W., willing to open the gates of secular Europe to fundamentalists, cultists, and megachurch franchises... Religious freedom is first about "the ability of peoples to live together". Obama prefers "Interfaith service" to that more or less literal cut-throat competition.
Number 6 : "I am not a number, I am a free man!" And a free woman. Always keeping in mind that "women's rights" are not threatened only in the Muslim world. The US or France are lagging behind "Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead". Obama scores another big hit when he blames hastive judgements : "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who CHOOSES to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality".
The 7th and final point can seem a trifle commercial, but "economic development and opportunity" does include education and science, and not the way intended by promoters of Intelligent Design and other creationists of all confessions. We are facing a future where, even if peace emerges soon, many generations will have no experience of it beforehand. This is about preventing a relapse to "violent extremism in all of its forms", preventing a return to square one.
A call for mutual respect wrapped up in references from the Torah, the Quran, and the New Testament. Religion never mixes well in politics but precisely, somehow, Obama managed to draw a most precious line in Egypt.
* according to the first international treaty signed by the US (Treaty of Tripoli, 1796, Art. 11.) : "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". That's right before the part quoted by Obama in Cairo ("the United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims").
** see transcript (NYT 20090604)
*** If you miss the Bush-Cheney, us-vs-them mantras, there's still Osama Bin Laden :
""Antagonizing Muslims" ?!? Look who's talking, Osama"
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