President Obama's historic speech in Cairo, Egypt today was greeted by praise in the Muslim world. Three thousand of the faithful came to Cairo University to hear him reach out to Muslims in a way no American president has done before him. The president was welcomed with a standing ovation, and rousing applause interrupted him more than twenty times. There were even shouts of "we love you".
In Chicago, WGN talked to the executive director of a group called Islamic-American Relations. Ahmed Rehab shared the praise, and said the president is a sharp contrast to previous American presidents, especially George W. Bush. Rehab said Mister Obama's speech was very comprehensive, he said all the right words, and showed masterful diplomacy with special insight into how Muslims think and feel. He especially liked the way Obama drew a distinction between Islamic extremists who engage in violence, and the vast majority of everyday Muslims. Asked if he thought anything was missing from the speech, Rehab said he wished the president would have expanded a bit on the struggle of the average muslim in Arab countries earning a living and advancing themselves.
Rehab also explained the nature of Muslim anger directed at the United States. He told WGN, it is not an ideological divide, there is no inherent hatred, and they don't hate us for our freedoms. Basically, he says, it's about two issues. One is the perception that all the U.S. cares about is its own national interest, and that's oil and Israel, not so much about the life of the average person living in the majority muslim world. The other is the wars, especially the war in Iraq and how it was mismanaged.
Rehab gave President Obama many kudos and says he is working very hard to set a new tone. However, he adds, the proof will be in his policies, not his words.