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Obama’s Speech Could Mark Shift in U.S.-Muslim Relations

As reaction to President Obama's address in Cairo continues to filter in, analysts consider what the lasting effect Thursday's speech may have on U.S. policy and global attitudes.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Judy Woodruff has more on the president's speech.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And for that, we get four views.

    Rami Khouri is an editor-at-large of the Daily Star Newspaper in Lebanon. He's also the director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut.

    Abderrahim Foukara is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic.

    Sumaiya Hamdani is an associate professor of history at George Mason University, where she founded the school's Islamic studies program and served as its director until last year.

    And As'ad AbuKhalil is a professor of political science at California State University at Stanislaus.

    Thank you, all four, for being with us.

    And I'm going to turn to you first, Rami Khouri in Beirut. You are there in a part of the Muslim world the president was referring to, was directing his remarks today to. Did he reset the relationship as he said he wanted to do?

  • RAMI KHOURI, Daily Star Newspaper:

    At the rhetorical level, I would say yes. Rhetorically, he's been very well-received. There was a lot of good, positive vibes here and among many people that I've talked to.

    But it was rhetoric. And people are happy to hear him talk about a variety of issues around the region, to look at the Middle East and the Arab-Asian region, which he calls the Muslim world, but it's really the Arab-Asian region that we're talking about.

    And he talked with a lot of nuance and identified a lot of different issues that are important to people, recognized some historical traumas that people have suffered here, acknowledged a lot of the grievances that people are talking about.

    There are a lot of good vibes, good feelings, good rhetoric. But none of it has been translated into serious policy yet.

    But it was a speech, and people take it for what it is, which is setting out some American principles. We've yet to see a translation of those principles into real serious policies. But people are patient with Obama, they like what they're hearing from him, for the most part, and we have to wait and see if he follows it up.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Abderrahim Foukara here in Washington, what did you hear?

  • ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA, Al Jazeera Arabic:

    Well, what I heard, just like we heard from Rami, on the level of the rhetoric, the philosophy of the speech, if you will, which is, "I've come to you, to the Muslim world, to try and repair whatever damage has been done in relations between the Muslim world and the United States not just over the past eight years, but over a long period of time."

    That, obviously, rang very true. And it got very positive reactions to it, whether in the Middle East proper, if you will, or in other parts of the Muslim world, like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    On the level of policy, it was always expected that many of the things that he would say would be controversial. He said some very positive things about Israel and Palestine, which matters a lot to Arabs and Muslims. The issue of Palestine in the Muslim world was seen as being almost synonymous with his call for better relations between the United States and the Muslim world.

    But you get people in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan, for example, who say, "OK, he's come to us with his message of peace, but there are U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there are civilians being killed there by American forces."