It would be wonderful to live in the world that Obama painted in Cairo, but a sense of reality suggests that it is impossible. We can leave aside obvious words of appreciation for the US President’s desire for peace and his political courage: both are undeniable. In Cairo, Obama used all the force of his magic to try to create a turning point for our era where the conflict between Islam and the West would cease to exist. What came out was a rather predictable portrait of this young, good president.
Obama’s image of the world starts from his own autobiography: it is no accident that he never even mentioned the word terrorism. The American President exhibited himself as living proof that the conflict of civilizations is non-existent, a young man who grew up without conflict between Islam and Christianity, with a Muslim father and grandfather, a white, Christian mother, and the United States as his destination, and a US where Islam is also an essential component. Obama spoke for an entire hour, but the world only really heard a few points. The first was his apologetic tone: in essence, we have similar principles, those of human rights. But that is not the way it is.
First of all, the history of human rights is solidly anchored to Europe and the United States; it does not lie in some gorge of Middle-Eastern satrapy, waiting to jump out. Second, the two cultures have always had a history of conflicting relations. But while our own masses have forgotten that, the Muslim masses keep the flag flying daily, in schools and public squares. These are not marginal phenomena: proof lies in the enormous demonstrations of Hamas and Hezbollah, the determination of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Iran’s painstaking atomic and terrorist strategy. Iran has been threatening moderate Arab leaders first ever since 2005 (Mubarak was almost deposed recently by an attempted uprising). The biggest problem of the Muslims is their intra-Islamic war, not the one with the US. The United States, like Israel, is not at war with Islam; it is being attacked by Islam. Ever since 1979; with the attack on the American Embassy in Teheran, then Nairobi in 1998, then Tanzania and on to 9/11, radical Islam has attacked, while creating mass consensus around these attacks.
Obama measures the balance of the components he carries inside him and projects them onto a pacified universe. He does the same thing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he mentioned even before the Iranian question, staggering Israel. He reiterated the strength of US relations with Israel, but he put the two people’s behavior on the same level, whereas one has made numerous offers to leave occupied territories to make room for a Palestinian state, and the other carries the standard of refusal. It is hard to image that Obama’s proposal of two states sounds realistic to Hamas, which has made the destruction of Israel its very reason for being. It was not realistic when Arafat refused all offers, nor was it recently when Abu Mazen said no to Olmert.
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As for Iran, Obama dedicated far too few words to the most dangerous country in the world today, with the most aggressive, ferocious form of Islam. Perhaps it was incompatibility with Obama-centric idea of Islam that induced the President to state that the country of the ayatollahs can develop atomic energy for domestic use. The hypothesis is ludicrous. The background pieces are missing. When Obama speaks of Islamic tolerance, he is using worn-out clichÃ©s. He was wrong in his quote about Spain: Cordova and Granada were witnesses to Muslim massacres of Jews, as were Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Egypt.
Finally, the clash with Christianity has been so long and deep that Obama’s contrite, decisive face is hardly enough to bring about peace. At the time of the Oslo Agreement, we saw Shimon Peres proclaim that the New Middle East had arrived. But the advantages of stability are no obstacle to Islamic aspirations to come out on top. Obama made a mistake in not making promises to Egypt. It might be that only concrete support against Iranian extremism could unite Islam in a dream of peace.
Originally published in Italian in Il Giornale