Experts' Comment - 4 June 2009
Hussain Abdul-Hussain, Visiting Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme
America's best hope of transforming from a superpower to a 'smart power' comes from its president and inspiring orator - Barack Obama. His speech at the University of Cairo on Thursday can be understood in this context.
Obama, who often uses examples from his own life in his speeches, spoke about his paternal family with its generations of Muslims and of his Muslim Kenyan father. He twice mentioned his childhood in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population. Obama also referred to his middle name, Hussein, to hint that of all the American presidents, he might be the one with the best understanding of Islam and its traditions. He used symbols from his life story to show that he is willing to open a new page between the United States and the Muslim world.
Through his references to Islam, whether about his family heritage or citing verses from the Quran, the speech targeted two interconnected audiences: Muslim populations around the world and - more specifically - Arab Muslims.
A 'New Page' Between the US and Muslim World?