A New Beginning

A New Beginning

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"A New Beginning" is the name of a speech delivered by United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 on June 4, 2009, from the Major Reception Hall at Cairo University
Cairo University
Cairo University is a public university located in Giza, Egypt.The university was founded on December 21, 1908, as the result of an effort to establish a national center for educational thought...

 in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.It is...

 co-hosted the event. The speech honors a promise Obama made during his presidential campaign
Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008
Barack Obama, then junior United States Senator from Illinois, announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States in Springfield, Illinois, on February 10, 2007. On August 27, 2008, he was declared nominee of the Democratic Party for the 2008 presidential election...

 to give a major address to Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s from a Muslim capital during his first few months as president.

White House Press Secretary
White House Press Secretary
The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official whose primary responsibility is to act as spokesperson for the government administration....

 Robert Gibbs
Robert Gibbs
Robert Lane Gibbs was the 28th White House Press Secretary. Gibbs was the communications director for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Obama's 2008 presidential campaign...

 indicated that Egypt was chosen because "it is a country that in many ways represents the heart of the Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

." Egypt is considered a key player in the Middle East peace process as well as a major recipient of American military and economic aid. Reuters
Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 reporter Ross Colvin reported that the speech would attempt to mend the United States' relations with the Muslim world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

, which he wrote were "severely damaged" during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Expectations


There was initially some speculation about the speech. Some thought Obama would unveil in detail his highly anticipated plans for future Middle East policy. In April and May 2009, the U.S. President had met in succession King Abdullah II of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas , also known by the kunya Abu Mazen , has been the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation since 11 November 2004 and became President of the Palestinian National Authority on 15 January 2005 on the Fatah ticket.Elected to serve until 9 January 2009, he unilaterally...

 to elaborate a peace plan in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. Arguments and ideas were exchanged during these three meetings, but few details were given about Obama's plan on the Middle East.

Since taking office, Obama stated his support for the creation of a Palestinian state and announced that he would engage in negotiations with Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. He also declared he opposed Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

s and wanted to revive peace talks. In an interview to Al Arabiya
Al Arabiya
Al Arabiya is a Pan-Arabist Saudi-owned Arabic-language television news channel. Launched on March 3, 2003, the channel is based in Dubai Media City, United Arab Emirates, and is majority-owned by the Saudi broadcaster Middle East Broadcasting Center ....

, few days after his inauguration, Obama declared: "my job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."

Context and preparation


In his inaugural address President Obama reached out to the Muslim World by saying that he seeks "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." He also said he would be willing to "extend a hand" to those "who cling to power through corruption and deceit" if they "are willing to unclench" their fists. Obama attempted to reach out to Arab leaders by granting his first interview to an Arab cable TV network, Al Arabiya. On March 19, 2009, Obama continued his outreach to the Muslim world, releasing a New Year's video message to the people and government of Iran. This attempt at outreach was rebuffed by the Iranian leadership. President Obama's first trip to a Muslim majority country occurred on April 6–7, 2009 when he visited Turkey and spoke to the Grand National Assembly
Grand National Assembly of Turkey
The Grand National Assembly of Turkey , usually referred to simply as the Meclis , is the unicameral Turkish legislature. It is the sole body given the legislative prerogatives by the Turkish Constitution. It was founded in Ankara on 23 April 1920 in the midst of the Turkish War of Independence...

. The speech was was well received by many Arab governments.

The A New Beginning speech occurred just after Obama met the representatives of both Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the Palestinian Authority. He had previously met King Abdullah on April 21 and Israeli President Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 on May 5.There was a meeting between in the White House a Saturday morning in May 2009 between Obama, Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor and Deputy Assistant to President Obama and national-security spokesperson Denis McDonough. In this meeting Obama told Rhodes and McDonough that he intends to deliver a speech to the Muslim World from Egypt’s capital Cairo. Obama’s told his aides that there are tensions between the Muslim and the West which root in colonialism. He also said that he knows from his personal experience that the West und the Islam are not separate worlds because they share things such as love of God and family. Obama told his aides that these are the things that bind West and Islam together. In the meeting Obama also expressed his desire to have a piece of about Islam contributions in the speech and made sure that the equality of men and women would also be incorporated into the speech.

On May 19, 2009, he met Netanyahu at the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

, where they discussed the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
Israeli–Palestinian conflict
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...

 and Israel's settlements in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

. While Obama said a two state solution was a priority, Benyamin Netanyahu did not explicitly endorse the creation of Palestinian state. Netanyahu said Israel has the right to continue settlements, whereas Obama called for settlement growth to be frozen. Obama also stated a "range of steps" are still available against Iran, including sanctions, if it continues its nuclear program.

Obama also met Mahmoud Abbas on 28 May. Obama reaffirmed his belief in a two-state solution, and stressed that Israel's obligation under a 2003 Middle East peace 'road map' includes stopping settlement growth and ensuring that there is a viable Palestinian state.
Before Egypt was announced as the speech venue, there was speculation by the media about the location of the address. Jakarta
Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

, Rabat
Rabat
Rabat , is the capital and third largest city of the Kingdom of Morocco with a population of approximately 650,000...

, Amman
Amman
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is the country's political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost...

, Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, and Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 were all considered likely choices. Mohammed Habib
Mohammed Habib
Mohammed Habib was a Deputy General Guide and the second-in-command of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He was expected to be the next leader of the organization, after former leader, Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef, announced his resignation in April 2009....

, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

, Egypt's largest opposition group, dismissed Obama's trip and said it would be "useless unless it is preceded by real change in the policies of the U.S. administration toward the Arab and Islamic world." Nevertheless, Obama's administration insisted that at least 10 members of the Muslim Brotherhood be allowed to attend the Cairo speech.

Cairo University spokeswoman Galila Mukhtar told The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

that "we are very proud to host the president of the United States," with spokesman Sami Abdel Aziz adding that the speech would be delivered in the Major Reception Hall. Renovations took place at the college and some final exams were postponed.

Obama's tour



On his way to Cairo, Obama stayed overnight at the ranch of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia located outside Riyadh
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

. While there, the two leaders discussed peace and economics and Obama continued to prepare his speech to be given at Cairo University the next day.

On 4 June, before delivering the speech, Obama led talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is a former Egyptian politician and military commander. He served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011....

 at Koubbeh Palace
Koubbeh Palace
Koubbeh Palace, is one of the various Egyptian palaces which currently serve as the country's official guest house for visiting dignitaries....

. The U.S. President said about the talks: "We discussed the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. We discussed how we can move forward in a constructive way that brings about peace and prosperity for all people in the region". He said the US was committed to working in partnership with countries in the Middle East. The President later visited the Sultan Hassan Mosque, before going to Cairo University.

After the speech, Obama continued his tour with a visit to Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp was a German Nazi concentration camp established on the Ettersberg near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937, one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps on German soil.Camp prisoners from all over Europe and Russia—Jews, non-Jewish Poles and Slovenes,...

 to pay homage to the victims of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

. He met German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel is the current Chancellor of Germany . Merkel, elected to the Bundestag from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has been the chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, and chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary coalition from 2002 to 2005.From 2005 to 2009 she led a...

 at Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 on June 5.

Speech


Obama's speech called for improved mutual understanding and relations between the Islamic world and the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 and said both should do more to confront violent extremism
Extremism
Extremism is any ideology or political act far outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards...

. However, it was Obama's call for peace between Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and Palestinians that cut the highest profile. Obama reaffirmed America's alliance with Israel, calling their mutual bond "unbreakable", but also described Palestinian statelessness as "intolerable" and recognizing their aspirations for statehood and dignity as legitimate—just as legitimate as Israel's desire for a Jewish homeland.

Obama's speech was divided into seven parts: violent extremism, the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, nuclear weapons (with a reference to Iran), democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, religious freedom, rights of women
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

, and economic development
Economic development
Economic development generally refers to the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area...

.

The president opened his speech seeking a common ground between Muslims and the United States. He quoted from the Quran, "Be conscious of God and always speak the truth". Obama described Muslim contributions to Western civilization
Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe
Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe were numerous, affecting such varied areas as art, architecture, medicine, agriculture, music, language, and technology. From the 11th to 13th centuries, Europe absorbed knowledge from the Islamic civilization...

, citing the founding of algebra
Algebra
Algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning the study of the rules of operations and relations, and the constructions and concepts arising from them, including terms, polynomials, equations and algebraic structures...

, the development of navigational tools, the invention of the fountain pen
Fountain pen
A fountain pen is a nib pen that, unlike its predecessor the dip pen, contains an internal reservoir of water-based liquid ink. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib and deposits it on paper via a combination of gravity and capillary action...

, and the influence of Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures in Islamic culture....

. He described his own personal experiences with Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, including having Muslim family members, growing up in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, a majority-Muslim country and hearing "the call of the azaan", and working "in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith." He also listed several of the United States' connections to Islam, including Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 being the first country to recognize the United States, American Muslim
Islam in the United States
From the 1880s to 1914, several thousand Muslims immigrated to the United States from the Ottoman Empire, and from parts of South Asia; they did not form distinctive settlements, and probably most assimilated into the wider society....

 sportsmen (such as Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist...

 and Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and civil rights leaders (such as Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

), the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 winner Ahmed Zewail
Ahmed Zewail
Ahmed Hassan Zewail is an Egyptian-American scientist who won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry. He is the Linus Pauling Chair Professor Chemistry and Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.- Birth and education :Ahmed Zewail was born on...

, the Bangladeshi American
Bangladeshi American
Bangladeshi Americans are Americans of Bangladeshi descent. The overwhelming majority of Bangladeshi Americans are Bengalis. Most of them have immigrated from Sylhet region with a long trading history. Bangladeshi immigrants arrived in the United States especially since the early 1990s to become...

 architect-engineer Fazlur Khan
Fazlur Khan
Fazlur Rahman Khan was a Bangladeshi born architect and structural engineer. He is a central figure behind the "Second Chicago School" of architecture, and is regarded as the "Father of tubular design for high-rises"...

 who designed the Sears Tower
Sears Tower
Sears' optimistic growth projections were not met. Competition from its traditional rivals continued, with new competition by retailing giants such as Kmart, Kohl's, and Wal-Mart. The fortunes of Sears & Roebuck declined in the 1970s as the company lost market share; its management grew more...

, the election of Keith Ellison
Keith Ellison (politician)
Keith Maurice Ellison is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. The district centers on Minneapolis. He was re-elected in 2010. Ellison is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.He is the first Muslim to be elected to the...

 as the U.S.'s first Muslim congressman, and the presence of over 1,200 mosque
Mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

s in the U.S.

On the subject of the Iraq War, Obama stated, "Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible." He also promised to "remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012."

During the "nuclear weapons" portion of the speech, Obama stated, "In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government." It was the first acknowledgement by a U.S. President of the United States government's involvement in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état; although then-Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Korbelová Albright is the first woman to become a United States Secretary of State. She was appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, and was unanimously confirmed by a U.S. Senate vote of 99–0...

 had acknowledged it as well in a speech in 2000.

About democracy, Obama stated that, though "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone", "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: 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." He called such freedoms "human rights".

On economic development, Obama described several new funds, scholarship programs and partnerships to support education, technological development and better health care
Health care
Health care is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans. Health care is delivered by practitioners in medicine, chiropractic, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, allied health, and other care providers...

 in Muslim-majority countries.

Reaction


The speech was highly anticipated and generally acclaimed by the Muslim world. However, some Muslims criticized it, both before and after it was delivered.

Pre-speech


On 3 June, Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 released a video in which Osama Bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 strongly criticized Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East. He said that Barack Obama "has followed the steps of his predecessor in antagonising Muslims ... and laying the foundation for long wars." He also added that "Obama and his administration have sowed new seeds of hatred against America." One day before, a video of Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian physician, Islamic theologian and current leader of al-Qaeda. He was previously the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having succeeded Abbud al-Zumar in the latter role when Egyptian authorities sentenced al-Zumar to life...

 was posted to extremist websites, in which the leader criticized Obama's policy, declaring "his bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or by farcical visits or elegant words."

President Obama was also criticized by Ayatollah
Ayatollah
Ayatollah is a high ranking title given to Usuli Twelver Shī‘ah clerics. Those who carry the title are experts in Islamic studies such as jurisprudence, ethics, and philosophy and usually teach in Islamic seminaries. The next lower clerical rank is Hojatoleslam wal-muslemin...

 Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

, who delivered a speech to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Ruhollah Khomeini
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran...

 a few hours before Barack Obama's speech. Ayatollah Khamenei commented on the pending U.S. President's speech declaring: "The nations of this part of the world... deeply hate America. Even if they give sweet and beautiful [speeches] to the Muslim nation that will not create change. Action is needed."

Post-speech


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas , also known by the kunya Abu Mazen , has been the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation since 11 November 2004 and became President of the Palestinian National Authority on 15 January 2005 on the Fatah ticket.Elected to serve until 9 January 2009, he unilaterally...

 described the speech as "clear and frank... an innovative political step." Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 spokesman Fawzi Barhum also welcomed the speech, saying "It had many contradictions, all the while reflecting tangible change". However, another Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 spokesman, Ayman Taha
Ayman Taha
Ayman Taha is a senior Hamas official and the organization's spokesman in the Gaza Strip. Taha was co-founder of Hamas also a former Hamas fighter.-Biography:...

, remarked after the speech that Obama is "no different" from George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. Amr Moussa
Amr Moussa
Amr Mohammed Moussa is an Egyptian politician and diplomat who was the Secretary-General of the Arab League, a 22-member forum representing Arab states, from 1 June 2001 until 1 June 2011. He is a candidate in the 2011 Egyptian presidential election....

, head of the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

, hailed the speech, saying it "was balanced and offered a new vision of rapprochement regarding relations with Islamic states."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

 said the speech was "direct, significant and brave appeal in which President Obama elucidated his vision and important universal principles, which he wishes to share with the Muslim world". Israeli President
President of Israel
The President of the State of Israel is the head of state of Israel. The position is largely an apolitical ceremonial figurehead role, with the real executive power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister. The current president is Shimon Peres who took office on 15 July 2007...

 Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 said the speech was "full of vision, a brave speech demanding a commitment to hard work on all sides involved in the promotion of the peace process in the Middle East...The idea of peace was born in the Middle East as the basis of the three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and the sons of Abraham must join hands in order to take on this challenge together, a sustainable peace in the Middle East." Other government officials criticized the speech for what they saw as glossing over Palestinian terrorism. Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz
Daniel Hershkowitz
Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz is an Israeli politician, mathematician and rabbi. In 2009 he was elected to the Knesset as the leader of The Jewish Home, and was appointed Minister of Science and Technology....

 said, "Obama completely overlooked that fact that the Palestinians have yet to abandon terror. The Israeli government is not some overlapping excess of the US administration."

Javier Solana
Javier Solana
Francisco Javier Solana de Madariaga, KOGF is a Spanish physicist and Socialist politician. After serving in the Spanish government under Felipe González and Secretary General of NATO , he was appointed the European Union's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary...

, European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 Common Foreign and Security Policy
Common Foreign and Security Policy
The Common Foreign and Security Policy is the organised, agreed foreign policy of the European Union for mainly security and defence diplomacy and actions. CFSP deals only with a specific part of the EU's external relations, which domains include mainly Trade and Commercial Policy and other areas...

 chief, praised the speech saying "It was a remarkable speech, a speech that without any doubt is going to open a new page in the relation with the Arab-Muslim world and I hope in the problems we have in so many theatres in the region." United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he...

 spoke of "the opening of a new chapter in relations between the United States and the Islamic world." The Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 also welcomed the speech, saying it "went beyond political formulas, evoking concrete common interests in the name of a common humanity".

A Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 Foreign Office spokesman praised and backed the speech saying, "We feel encouraged by President Obama’s remarks on Palestine and Israel. It has been a long standing demand of Pakistan that the two-nation theory is the only way forward out of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 crisis". He further went on to say, "We see this visit as a very positive step on the part of US because over the years there has been proverbial chasm between the Western and Islamic world. So this visit will be useful in bridging gaps between the Muslim and the Western world." An Iraqi government spokesperson stated that the speech made a "positive direction" towards international dialogue.

Hezbollah political figure Hassan Fadlallah
Hassan Fadlallah
Hassan Fadlallah is a Shia Lebanese member of parliament representing the Bint Jbeil district. He is part of Hezbollah March 8 alliance which is the opposition in parliament.-See also:* Lebanese Parliament* Members of the 2009-2013 Lebanese Parliament...

 remarked that "[t]he Islamic and Arab world does not need lectures". Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader
Supreme leader
A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

 of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, later made an address that did not mention Obama's speech directly, but he said, "[t]he new US government seeks to transform this image. I say firmly, that this will not be achieved by talking, speech and slogans". Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also criticized it.

According to journalist Richard Spencer, most commentators in the Arab press welcomed Obama's speech, hoping it would lay the ground for concrete action. Christiane Amanpour
Christiane Amanpour
Christiane Amanpour, CBE is anchor of ABC News's This Week and formerly chief international correspondent at CNN, where she worked for 27 years. She is a Board Member at the IWMF .-Early years:...

 of CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 has also described the Muslim world's general reaction as very favorable and supportive. Many Muslim clerics
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, such as those in the Indonesian Ulema Council
Indonesian Ulema Council
Indonesian Ulema Council is Indonesia's top Muslim clerical body. The council comprises all Indonesian Muslim groups including Nahdlatul Ulama , Muhammadiyah, and the more subtle name like Persis, Al Irsyad, Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia , Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia , Forum Ulama Umat Islam and the...

, praised the speech and stated that it reflected America's good intentions towards Muslims. Salahuddin Wahid, an influential cleric, expressed hope that it would not be just words, but rather followed by "concrete steps". An Egyptian Salafi
Salafi
A Salafi come from Sunni Islam is a follower of an Islamic movement, Salafiyyah, that is supposed to take the Salaf who lived during the patristic period of early Islam as model examples...

 scholar responded positively to Obama's address and used it as an opportunity to explain the link between Islamic civilisation, European civilisation and America, and Islamic principles.

Some Arab commentators had a more negative response. Rami Khouri
Rami George Khouri
Rami George Khouri born 22 October 1948, in New York City to an Arab Palestinian Christian family. His father, George Khouri, a Nazarene journalist in what was the British mandate of Palestine had traveled with his wife to New York in 1947 to cover the United Nations debates about the future of...

, the editor of The Daily Star
Daily Star (Lebanon)
The Daily Star is a pan-Middle East English language newspaper edited in Beirut. It was founded in 1952 by Kamel Mrowa, the publisher of the Arabic daily Al-Hayat to serve the growing number of expatriates brought by the oil industry...

and director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut
American University of Beirut
The American University of Beirut is a private, independent university in Beirut, Lebanon. It was founded as the Syrian Protestant College by American missionaries in 1866...

, argued that Obama gave "a lot of good, positive vibes" but, ultimately, it "was only rhetoric". He referred to what he saw as the hypocrisy of Obama praising human rights after meeting with Egyptian and Saudi leaders who have suppressed those same rights. He stated that the Muslim world is still waiting for Obama's words to "translate" into real policy. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 bureau chief Abderrahim Foukara made similar remarks, saying that "he talked about Palestinians killing Israelis, but he didn't talk a lot about Israelis killing Palestinians, especially in the context of the latest Israeli war on Gaza". Foukara also said, "he's come to us with his message of peace, but there are U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there are civilians being killed there by American forces".

The fact that Obama never mentioned the word "terrorism" or "terror" was positively interpreted by many in the Muslim street, given that many of them see a 'war on terror
War on Terror
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

' interchangeably as a 'war on Islam
War on Islam
War against Islam, War on Islam or Attack on Islam, is a coined term to describe a perceived campaign to harm, weaken or even annihilate the societal system of Islam, using military, economic, social and cultural means...

'. American conservatives also picked up on this and argued that it weakened Obama's overall message. House Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 leader John Boehner
John Boehner
John Andrew Boehner is the 61st and current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. A member of the Republican Party, he is the U.S. Representative from , serving since 1991...

 also commented after the speech that Obama "seemed to place equal blame on the Israelis and the Palestinians... I have concerns about that because Hamas is a terrorist organisation". As well, he said, "[w]here he continues to say he will sit down with the Iranians without any preconditions, I just think that that puts us in a position where America looks weak in the eyes of their rulers."

CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 pundit David Gergen
David Gergen
David Richmond Gergen is an American political consultant and former presidential advisor who served during the administrations of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. He is currently Director of the Center for Public Leadership and a professor of public service at Harvard Kennedy School. Gergen is...

 argued that while, in his view, Obama has wrongly apologized for American actions before, he did not do so here and conservative criticisms are unfounded. Independent Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Joseph Lieberman lauded the speech and went on to remark, "Obama is off to a very, very good start in a very difficult time in our nation’s history." A spokesman for Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 stated that "there were many things that were commendable... but it is disappointing that when he talked about democracy in the Muslim world he wasn't more specific about some of the problems." He also stated that Obama refrained from talking about what the spokesman saw as the suppression of dissidents in Egypt.

Political effects


Following the speech, Essam Derbala, a leader of the Egyptian Islamist group al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya is an Egyptian Islamist movement, and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Egyptian governments...

, called for Taliban and Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 to halt attacks on U.S. civilians and to consider the "opening" offered by Obama. He added that the organizations should also open up to talks with the United States. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 dismissed the speech as being a public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 effort.

Three days after the speech, a strengthening of the pro-Western coalition in the Lebanese general election
Lebanese general election, 2009
-Background:Prior to the election, the process to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 years was put into motion, but as this requires a constitutional amendment, it did not happen before the election.- Allocation of seats :...

 with a loss for Hezbollah was perceived by some foreign policy analysts to be at least in part due to Obama's speech. Several others stated that the speech played only a minor role compared to domestic events such as a last-minute appeal by Lebanon's Maronite patriarch asking Christians to vote against Hezbollah. For example, Lydia Khalil of the Council on Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...

 commented that "[i]t is too soon to tell what the ultimate Obama effect will be."

Israeli Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

 Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 immediately called a special government meeting after Obama finished his address. Yedioth Ahronoth
Yedioth Ahronoth
Yedioth Ahronoth is a daily newspaper published in Tel Aviv, Israel. Since the 1970s, it has been the most widely circulated paper in Israel. In a TGI survey comparing the last half of 2009 with the same period in 2008, Yedioth Ahronoth retained the title of most widely read newspaper in Israel...

has stated that the address' words "resonated through Jerusalem's corridors". On June 14, Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he endorsed, for the first time, a two-state solution
Two-state solution
The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the consensus solution that is currently under discussion by the key parties to the conflict, most recently at the Annapolis Conference in November 2007...

 for Israelis and Palestinians; the speech was widely seen as a response to Obama's speech. In a rejoinder to Obama's mentioning of the founding of Israel in the context of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, Netanyahu remarked, "[t]here are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the State of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the State of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred." Netanyahu stated that he would accept a Palestinian state if Jerusalem were to remain the united capital of Israel
Positions on Jerusalem
There are differing legal and diplomatic positions on Jerusalem held within the international community. Governments and scholars alike are divided over the legal status of Jerusalem under international law. Most countries of the world do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Many do not...

, the Palestinians would have no army, and the Palestinians would give up their demand for a right of return
Palestinian right of return
The Palestinian right of return is a political position or principle asserting that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees and their descendants, have a right to return, and a right to the property they or their forebears left or which they were forced to leave in what is now Israel...

. He also stated that existing Jewish settlements
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

 in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 will expand while their permanent status is up to further negotiation. The overture was quickly rejected by Palestinian leaders such as Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri
Sami Abu Zuhri
Sami Abu Zuhri is a senior spokesman for the Palestinian political party Hamas. Zuhri, a relatively unknown member of Hamas, gained notoriety on May 19, 2006, when Palestinian security and customs officials discovered he had 640,000 euros on his person; another report claimed he held a larger sum...

, who called the speech "racist".

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the speech may have played some role in the June 2009 Iranian Presidential election between President
President of Iran
The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in, and the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; although subordinate to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state...

 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his rival Mir Hossein Mousavi, spurring on reformist public opinion
Public opinion
Public opinion is the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs held by the adult population. Public opinion can also be defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views....

. The paper also stated that the Obama administration would probably be loath to talk about this publicly in fear of sparking an Iranian backlash. About a week later, some unnamed Obama administration officials did make that case to the Washington Post.

External links