Speech Translation

Shadi Hamid in the Washington Post:

Shadi_hamidWhile Barack Obama’s speech on race earlier this week was geared primarily toward domestic concerns, as an American of Middle Eastern origin, watching from a café in Jordan, I was struck by the possibilities it offered not only for race relations at home, but for our relationship with Arabs and Muslims abroad.

Obama declared that “the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding.” He was speaking, of course, about the legacy of slavery and segregation. But he might as well have been talking about the burgeoning anger toward America felt by millions of frustrated Muslims around the world. And the conversation Obama tried to initiate — contextualizing radicalism and seeking its source rather than merely denouncing it — is the sort of conversation that could also lay the groundwork for a long-overdue reassessment of our approach to the Middle East.

Thus far, the national discourse on the question of Muslim anti-Americanism, and particularly the violence and terror perpetrated in the name of Islam, has been dominated by condemnation and denunciation. As it must be. Targeting innocents — whether they are Israeli children on their way to school or the nearly 3,000 Americans who showed up to work one day and found it would be their last — can never be excused. And we must unapologetically wage war on those who seek to destroy us.

At the same time, we can’t simply wish future violence and terrorism away by relegating it to the domain of irrational, crazed fanaticism. We cannot say that “they hate us for who we are” and leave it at that.

More here.