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Obama speech stirs controversy at home

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : President Barack Obama’s Thursday speech to the Muslim world has stirred controversy at home with some calling it “a continuation of his detente” and others finding fault with his “studious avoidance” of the word “terrorism”.

The New York Times said Obama “delivered a sweeping message that was forceful and, at times, scolding”. And tweeting from Cairo, Washington Post’s staff writer Howard Schneider wrote: “Halftime analysis from the crowd: let’s see how he implements it.”

Speaking to Egyptians, the Times said “all the polish and all the excitement will fade shortly after Air Force One lifts off, most people here say, if nothing changes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

The Wall Street Journal said Obama was “shrewd” to include a passage on women’s rights, “noteworthy coming from the father of two girls”.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour called the speech “a continuation of President Obama’s detente” with the Muslim world.

But Obama’s citing of his own background invited mockery from some quarters with the Politico’s Mike Allen calling the comments “by far the most extensive he has made about his Muslim roots.”

Michael Rubin of conservative weblog The Corner also found fault with Obama’s studious avoidance of the word “terrorism”.

Questioning Obama’s “balanced tone” on the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Matthew Brooks said: “American policy should not be balanced – it should side with those who fight terror, not those who either engage in it or are too weak to prevent it.”

The Times’ Helene Cooper said Muslims will judge Obama by actions more than words. It is too soon to tell whether Obama’s speech “will be the balm to America’s broken relationship with Islam that White House officials hope,” she said.

But one thing is already clear, Cooper said, while “Obama’s strong words may resonate today, on the Arab street and in the madrassas and the tea shops and dining tables where the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims congregate, the future actions of Obama will be far more important.”