Inland Muslims hail message of tolerance
Thursday, June 4, 2009
By DAVID OLSON
The Press Enterprise
Inland Muslims praised President Barack Obama's Cairo speech, saying he went further than any previous president in reaching out to the Islamic world.
"It gives a message to Muslims that the United States is not going to impose its values, that the United States is equal to all countries in the world, and the Muslim world," said Muhamad Ali, an assistant professor of religious studies at UC Riverside who woke up early to watch the speech live on CNN just after 3 a.m. Pacific time.
The speech was a change in tone from what many Muslims had viewed as U.S. arrogance toward the Islamic world toward a more humble approach, he said.
Ali was born in Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population. Obama talked in his speech about how when he lived in Indonesia as a child, he noticed how Christians were able to worship freely, and the president discussed the centuries-long respect and tolerance in most of the Muslim world toward other religions.
Obama also talked of Muslims' contributions to science, mathematics and literature, and to the United States.
Mustafa Kuko, director of the Islamic Center of Riverside, said those comments would help dispel misunderstandings about Islam among non-Muslim Americans.
He said that Obama's quoting of the Quran in his speech was a meaningful gesture to Muslims around the world.
"For a Muslim, there's nothing more important in his life than the Quran," he said.
"When you're coming from that angle, you're getting closer to him."
Some Muslim commentators abroad criticized Obama for not offering specific changes in U.S. policy, and for not going further in criticisms of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.
But Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a Corona resident, said he was not expecting a detailed policy speech.
"President Obama provided a clear outline, an honest outline, of what the challenges might be and a brave and honest road map to meeting those challenges," he said.
"The specifics are much easier once there's a will."
Ayloush said it was not realistic for Obama to assuage all of the Muslim world's concerns in a 55-minute speech.
"One has to keep in mind that the grievances and issues that been built up over the years, and even decades, are many, too many to be addressed in one speech," he said.
Reach David Olson at 951-368-9462 or dolson@PE.com
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html