Alkhobar: For women across the
Muslim world, US President Barack Obama’s historic address from
Cairo was nothing short of a blessing.
his respect for their personal choices and at the same time
underscored his belief that their choices should be personal.
“God bless him,”
said Asya Al-Ashaikh, founder and CEO of the Jeddah-based Tamkeen
Development and Management Consulting. “He is a courageous man. It
was a fascinating speech. He said all the right things. I am sure he
will be able to translate all that he has spoken in Cairo into real
action. His words will open a new chapter in our relationship with
the US. He touched almost all the issues that concern us. What
struck a chord within me was his focus on education and the
empowering of women through education. ‘Our daughters can contribute
just as much to society as our sons.’ I will always remember that
line forever. It is so true.”
his speech into seven sections, mostly political.
sixth issue focused entirely on women’s rights.
“I know there is
debate about this issue,” Obama said. “I reject the view of some in
the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less
equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is
denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women
are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.”
He echoed that
long-respected American principle of self-determination.
“I do not
believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be
equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in
traditional roles, but it should be their choice,” Obama said.
“I was impressed
by his talk. His selection of Cairo University to deliver his
all-important address carried a very important message. This
university is a symbol of Arab history and culture, of our education
and civilization and of modernity. It is a very important
institution,” said Hatoon Al-Fassi, a Riyadh-based Saudi writer and
that the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country
to support expanded literacy for girls and to help young women
pursue employment through micro-financing is highly significant. It
is a proposal that should be immediately grasped for the general
good of the civilized world,” said Al-Fassi.
overtures to the Muslim world may still come with bogies attached,
but his unequivocal support toward empowerment of Muslim women is a
welcome sign indeed,” said Amna Khaishgi, a Dubai-based Pakistani
“Be it the West,
Middle East or Asia, the role of women acquires the most critical
dimension, and any progress will be incomplete without the
participation of almost half the population on the planet. Women
have always played and will continue to play a great role in the
Muslim world but making it further participatory will surely be more
mother of four said although she was impressed by Obama’s speech she
was unsure if his words would translate into policy decisions. “He
is a genuine man but that doesn’t mean he will have an easy ride
having his way in the United States,” said Aisha Al-Fassi.
“He is the
president, yes, but there are other levers of power in the United
States that are equally if not more important. Also, it remains to
be seen how the American media will react. The pro-Israeli media in
the US have exacerbated many of the problems. They have been feeding
the American public with a steady anti-Arab and anti-Muslim diet.
However, I have no doubt about the good intentions of Obama. I hope
he succeeds in what he believes,” she said.
“His speech was
excellent. It was comprehensive and balanced,” said Maha Akeel,
managing editor of The Journal (issued by the Organization of the
Islamic Conference). “Some might criticize that he repeated the
usual stands of the US in support of Israel and the same rhetoric
about peace and Islam and that we should wait for action instead of
being happy with mere words.”
cautioned Obama might be seen as lecturing the Muslim world, but he
made it clear that the issue of women’s rights is a global one that
many nations — including the US — need to address. Some women
expressed hope that his words might advance that conversation in the
to the Muslim world was one of hope and prospect. His address about
women in the Muslim world was on the one hand one of respect toward
religious and traditional differences and on the other hand one of
encouragement to women,” said Sharia Abdullah Walker, a Jeddah-based
Saudi student of international relations.
“It is time that
women take their rightful role in their society, which is in demand
for educated and professional women who can contribute to the growth
and development of the society and humanity.”
on women’s education are more than welcome.
Certainly, it is one of
the fundamental building blocks of growth and development,” said Sadia Khan, a student of Islamic studies at Jamia Millia Islamia in
New Delhi. “It is indeed high time that the traditional and orthodox
elements in the Muslim society assessed this very critical issue,”