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Obama’s Cairo Speech Elicits Varying Reactions From American Muslims

June 4, 2009 at 6:10 PM EDT
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Many American Muslims watched Thursday's address by President Obama with keen interest, seeing it as both a major moment for U.S. policy as well as a call for Muslims to reflect on their beliefs and the governments of the Middle East.

JIM LEHRER: On the president’s speech, we invited a group of Muslims to gather at their mosque in Maryland and give us their reactions. Here’s a sampling.

SYED SALAHUDDIN: Obama’s speech, I heard the speech. It was brilliant. And it was a very bold and courageous move that he went to that length, you know, in Egypt, where Sadat was assassinated because he made peace. Obama was in the same country, and he delivered a very brilliant speech. I think this speech will affect in the future.

MONA AYAD: It’s very refreshing to finally have the president of the United States acknowledge the contributions of Muslims and the common values that we share with the other religions. And I think he focused on the very important points that Muslims care about and the whole world should actually care about.

ARSHAD QURESHI: I was very much impressed by his acceptance of the fact that the words alone cannot meet or solve the deeds of the people. Words have to be followed by actions and by positive effort to make that possible. It remains to be seen how much real action will emerge from these beautiful words which were spoken.

AKHTAR ZUBAIRI: The majority of the people in the world like the America. The conflict is with the American policy. And what President Obama has laid down is a different path to that policy, and that’s what you may have seen the reactions from the different part of the world.

That is a positive. That’s really — it shows that he is serious, what he is saying. Hopefully he will act upon it. And once he does, it will reflect.

MONA AYAD: He quoted from the Koran, and it seems like he has a good overview of many facets of this problem, of the lack of understanding between people. And he’s encouraging toleration, which is very, very essential.

And he spoke about mutual understanding and respect between people. And I really don’t — I think that’s the first step. I can’t picture us going forward unless, you know, the entire world respects, you know, each other, each country, and each religion, and each way of life.

ARSHAD QURESHI: We in the Muslim world have to also examine our own selves to see what weaknesses we have, what strengths we have, and how to best deploy towards achieving the common objectives which President Obama has enunciated.

SYED SALAHUDDIN: His positiveness will bring peace to the Middle East, because it’s not impossible. It’s possible.

AKHTAR ZUBAIRI: It’s not only that he will face the challenges in the Middle East and the Muslim world. He will have faced a lot of challenges here in America which he’ll have to overcome, he’ll have to face, he’ll have to answer.

Because it’s not really the one man which he can really do. He has the vision which he can really show to the people. But to implement it, he would need a lot of support.