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Obama's speech strikes a chord in India

Saturday, June 06, 2009, IANS


President Barack Obama waves to the audience before delivering a speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University June 4, 2009. (Reuters)

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New Delhi: President Barack Obama's stirring speech at the Cairo University struck a chord in India, home to the world's second largest Muslim population, with academicians and intellectuals seeing in it a new beginning by Washington to repair the US' strained relations with the Muslim world.


"It is an attempt on Obama's part to build a coalition of Arab-Muslim nations. Cairo has the perfect blend of modern and traditional Muslims," said Jayalakshmi, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) here.

Zafar Agha, a journalist, said: "It is an attempt on his part to leave the past mistakes behind and move ahead in partnership with the Muslim world.


"This can be a new beginning in solidifying the severed ties between the Americans and the Muslims. His speech has a great vision in it and it is extremely important that we respond in the same spirit," he underlined.


Obama's multi-ethnic identity is seen here as an asset in his attempt to shore up the US' standing in the Muslim world.


"Obama, being a half Muslim who carries the (middle) name 'Hussain', can understand the dynamics of Islam and associate well with the people," added Agha.


Jayalakshmi also lauded Obama's emphasis on rights of Muslim women. "He is going in the right direction by voicing concerns about women's rights. He is a family man and understands the importance of women education for the development of the society," added Jayalakshmi.


Islamic leader and professor A. Wasi called upon all religious leaders to take note of Obama's speech and come forward in support.

"It is for the first time that an American president has addressed the Muslims not from the safety of the White House but rather in the veins of a city (in the Muslim world). We must all react positively to his gracious effort," said Wasi.


Not all were impressed though.


Sultan Shaheen, a prominent journalist, pointed out there was no mention of India in Obama's entire speech. "India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world after Indonesia. I am surprised that he completely ignored Indian Muslims," said Shaheen.


Stressing that the fight against extremism is an ideological struggle and not a subject of military victory, Shaheen said: "For several years Muslims have not introspected and have slowly stagnated. Military force is not the solution. The entire mindset needs a makeover."




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