B. Raman in Outlook India:
The Arabs constitute a minority in the Islamic world. Non-Arab Muslims living in countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia constitute the majority. The issues, which agitate them, are different from the issues which agitate the Arab world. Osama bin Laden understands this better than Obama and his advisers. That was why in his audio message released through Al Jazeera a day before Obama’s Cairo address, bin Laden focused on issues of immediate concern to the non-Arab Muslims in the Af-Pak region such as the large-scale displacement of Pashtuns from the tribal areas of Pakistan. By focusing on their plight and by holding the Americans responsible for it, he sought to make it certain that the anti-American anger in the Af-Pak region will increase rather than decrease.
Outside India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, the attitude of the Muslims towards the US is characterized by feelings of hostility or anger or scepticism. There is hardly any feeling of empathy or warmth. There are various reasons for the negative feelings towards the US. Some are country-specific, some are region specific and some are ethnicity specific. The negative feelings of the Arabs towards the US may be due to the Palestine issue and the perceived US support for Israel, but Palestine and Israel are not such burning issues in the non-Arab Islamic world.
Obama’s address seemed to have been constructed around the belief that the Muslims constitute a monolithic community and that their actions are motivated by certain issues of common concern to all the Muslims of the world. This is a wrong belief. The Muslims are not a monolithic community and there is no common thread uniting the anger motivating the Muslims in different countries and different regions. There are Muslims and Muslims and issues and issues.
If Obama wanted to address the Muslims of the world, Cairo was the wrong place from which to seek to do so.