Published: Nov 11, 2010 We want some plain, honest action on Palestine, not fine words
So President Barack Obama thinks that more work needs to be done to end Muslim mistrust of the US but that he is making progress on reducing misunderstanding between the two.
The US president is either living in an ivory tower, totally divorced from reality, or he is being thoroughly dishonest, hoping that Muslims can be fobbed off with fine words.
As far as Muslims are concerned, nothing of any importance has been done by him to change attitudes. Muslim mistrust of the US is as great as ever. It is also painfully evident that, for all its denials, American mistrust of Muslims is massive. The furor over the planned mosque near New York's 9/11 site; an opinion poll in September showing that 35 percent of Americans believe that Islam encourages violence; the seizure only this week of a package containing nothing more deadly than the passports of a number of American Muslims planning to leave for Haj by US Customs & Border Control with the result that the 17 would-be Hajis missed their flight: All stand as damning evidence of towering American Islamophobia and a paranoia about anything connected with Muslims.
We are tired of Obama's fine rhetoric. We have heard it before. In Cairo 17 months ago, he promised to hit the restart button in relations between the Muslim world and the US. It has not happened. Yes, there were promises in Cairo about US/Muslim world school exchange programs, help to boost entrepreneurship, science and technology in Muslim countries and increased aid for Pakistan. That was easy; it was just a matter of money. But we do not want American money; we do not need it. We do not want American words. We want some plain, honest American action on Palestine. That is the proving ground for the health of Muslim-American relations.
Obama says he is earnest in his efforts to improve the relationship. He may be earnest, but where are his efforts? In Cairo, he condemned Israeli settlements. He has done it again in Jakarta. But he has done absolutely nothing about them. When Israel ended its moratorium on settlement expansion, what did the US do? It expressed its "disappointment". It was shameful. Hope dashed is more poisonous than no hope ever given. It creates lasting bitterness. That is what Obama is doing. The contempt for him in the Arab and Muslim worlds is reaching Bush proportions. If he went to Israel and publicly declared that the settlements had to end, that might at least impress. But he does not even do that. Yet in the meantime, this administration continues to give Israel billions of dollars every year -- with never a suggestion that it might be cut if Israel does not do as Washington wishes.
Obama had the chance to deliver after Cairo. The Muslims world wanted to believe in him. He has blown it with his inaction. He had failed totally to deliver. Muslim patience with him has now run out. Fresh fine rhetoric will not change that because Obama has shown himself not to be a man of his word.
We would love to be proved wrong. We do not think we are.