Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 16

President Obama in the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo, June 4 2009 with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton


U.S. President Barack Obama’s June 4 speech in Cairo was seen by many observers as an outreach to the Islamic world. Within that world, some welcomed his words, some wait to see if deeds of substance accompany those words, while others, such as the Afghan Taliban, described the President’s words as nothing more than “misleading slogans” that “failed to deliver a clear and true message to the Muslim world.” The speech failed to contain any “sign of practical change in the hostile policy of America towards Muslims” (Afghan Islamic Press, June 5).

In a point-by-point deconstruction of the speech, the Afghan Taliban analyzed and condemned most of the material within the President’s address, which sought to lay a groundwork for repairing relations with the Islamic world.

• The Taliban described the president’s claims of tolerance and good-will as inconsistent with American actions, particularly those of its “occupation forces,” which are committing “mass murder” and imprisoning Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq in “the most hateful prisons of the world.” As a result of these “illegal” activities, “Obama’s baseless speech has no importance.”

• The statement objected to the President’s justification of the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a “legitimate struggle to secure U.S. interests… According to national and international laws, the occupation of independent countries and hostile war against their free nations cannot be called a legitimate war.”

• The Taliban accused the President of wanting to separate Muslims from “their real protectors,” the mujahideen.  The speech is described as an effort to divide the Muslim community. “Today, all vigilant Muslims are engaged in jihad in one way or the other. Therefore, the U.S. war against the mujahideen is considered a war against all Muslim nations and Islam.”

• Obama’s claim that America was not seeking a permanent military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is contradicted by the ongoing construction of military bases and airports in both countries, as well as the President’s stated intention of sending additional military forces to Afghanistan. “This large number of airports and countless number of military bases are established at a time when they do not need even half of them, given the number of their forces and daily military flights. This shows that Americans are intending to permanently remain in and occupy the region.”

• The President’s contention that U.S. forces will leave Afghanistan if peace is achieved “is quite funny… The presence of Americans is the main cause of violence and the current problems in the region. Jihad and resistance against American forces will continue as long as they are present in Afghanistan.

• The Taliban also objected to the President’s use of the Jewish Holocaust to demand that Muslims avoid the “deeply wrong” practices of “threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews.” The Taliban statement claims President Obama “described Israel as the most innocent and worthy nation of the world” while summarizing the 70-years of Palestinian suffering in “a few misleading words.” While the President did contend that “the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security,” the Taliban condemned Obama for failing to speak about the blockade of Gaza and Israeli efforts to deny the passage of medicines and basic food items to Gazan residents. The President also ignored the fact that “mass murders are committed [in Palestine] at every moment.”

In its summary of the President’s address, the Taliban statement remarked that President Obama did not come with conciliatory intentions, but with an “arrogant notion” to give orders to the Muslim world.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s continuing outreach to the global Islamic community has brought a harsh response from Jihadi-Salafist ideologues. Typical of this reaction is an article entitled “ObamaTurk: The Secular Phenomenon” by a jihadi analyst using the name “al-Janubi.” The article, based on President Obama’s visit to Turkey and his April 6 address to the Turkish parliament, appeared in issue two of the magazine Jihad Recollections, published in May by al-Fursan Media Productions.
Al-Janubi claims Obama’s speech “championed a version of Islam that advocated secularism, nationalism and democracy in place of the Islam revealed 1400 years ago.” Particularly offensive was his praise of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, “who single-handedly dismantled the greatest nation Allah ever let exist on the face of the earth” (i.e. the Ottoman Empire). Ataturk’s creation of a secular nationalist democracy in place of the Istanbul-centered Caliphate (dismantled by Ataturk in 1924) may be his legacy, but this does not make it a good legacy; “Obama forgot that Islam has no room for secularism.”
Al-Janubi cites a Quranic verse, Surah Baqarah, verse 120: “Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with you unless you follow their way.” Secularism, says al-Janubi, is the way of the Jews and Christians, though if the Muslims were to follow them in this way they would be respected even less than they are now. Addressing Obama’s statement of U.S. support for Turkish accession to the European Union (EU), al-Janubi points to the futility of Turkey’s attempts to join the EU as proof of the truth of this Surah.
While Obama praised Turkey’s choice of a new path (the creation of a secular democracy) rather than allowing partition by the Great Powers or attempting to restore the Ottoman Empire, al-Janubi maintains Turkish nationalism was nothing less than another form of “European hegemony,” as proved by Ataturk’s preference for the Latin, European alphabet and European dress rather than “neutral, non-European” modes. President Obama “lied when he said that the Turkish republic commanded the respect of the United States and the world. By imitating those who will not accept them except as alternative to the ‘radical Muslims,’ they are begging for the respect of the U.S. and the world, not demanding it.”
The author calls Obama a hypocrite for stating “There is no excuse for terror against any nation,” after having already pledged his support for Israel during the electoral campaign. “He has already promised to aid one nation, Israel, which has no right to exist, in its terrorizing of a neighboring nation of which Israel should be a jizyah-paying dependency [jizyah is a tax on non-Muslims]. He means one thing and says another, and according to a Muslim or a non-Muslim, that is the definition of a hypocrite!”
Finally, al-Janubi responds to President Obama’s assertion that “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.” According to al-Janubi, “To not be at war with Islam, he would have to withdraw troops from all Muslim lands, allow the Shari’a to be implemented by whom everyone else calls the ‘radicals’ and the ‘extremists,’ stop supporting any anti-Shari’a movements in the Muslim lands, and then withdraw all support from Israel so they may be easily overrun and absorbed by the Islamic caliphate to pay jizyah or be driven into the ocean.” Had Obama been sincere in his stated intention to deal fairly with the Islamic community, according to al-Janubi, he would have withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan and admitted that America had started the current conflict with the support of the one nuclear power in the Middle East, “the real terrorist, Israel.” He would also have cut off aid and support for dictators in Muslim lands, such as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King ‘Abdullah of Jordan. Al-Janubi concludes by asking whether Muslims will withdraw their support of Obama or support an enemy of Islam “and thereby become our own enemies in the process.”