Obama reaches out

John Esposito in The Immanent Frame:

President Barack Obama has moved quickly to follow up on his inaugural statement: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” He appointed and sent his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to the region on an eight day trip. Then on January 28, on Al Arabiya, the prominent Arab satellite TV network, Obama addressed the Arab and Muslim worlds in his first televised interview from the White House.

For many Muslims, eight years of the Bush administration’s war against global terrorism has looked more like the use of terrorism, WMDs and then the promotion of democracy to legitimate a neo-colonial design to redraw the political map of the Muslim world. Conscious of the popular perception and fear that the U.S. has been fighting a war against Islam and Muslims, President Obama sought to counter soaring anti-Americanism and reassure Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemy.” Signaling a shift from the perception globally of U.S. arrogance and interventionism, Obama declared that while “we sometimes make mistakes,” America is not a colonial power and hoped for a restoration of “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”

Obama’s message did strike many of the right chords.