By: Masood Malikyar
President Obama’s address from Cairo last week is largely considered the most historic one ever given by an American President to the Muslim world. He took a huge political risk against the vociferous criticism of his rivals in the Republican party and the right wing media. He covered a lot of ground and articulated his administration’s policy towards Muslims and Islam – until Cairo the latter was purposefully conflated with the word “terrorism” by his predecessors in the oval office and by the American mainstream media. In a sharp departure from the past’s misguided and apocalyptic policies, he refused to utter the word even once in his entire address.
I as a Muslim living in America am proud to live in a country that is led by such a courageous leader. I laud Mr. Obama for his courage and foresight. I appreciate his articulation of the pressing issues facing Americans and Muslims, and I am ecstatic about how in one speech he shifted the entire discourse from hate and fear mongering towards tolerance, collaboration, and the promise of what is possible if prejudices were set aside.
It is high time for Muslims and Muslim governments to stand tall once again on the right side of history. We need to stand at the helm of knowledge and in the forefront of technological innovations as we stood once before and as President Obama so kindly recalled. On the other hand, President Obama has to follow his words with concrete actions using the same zeal embodied in his historic speech. Words are only words to some if not translated into actions. However, the words Mr. Obama uttered in Cairo were fresh, sincere, and promising. He opened a whole new window of opportunity for all to grab regardless of nationality or creed. Americans, Europeans, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others all can follow his lead in contributing to a future devoid of hatred and prejudice – first with words and then with tangible and effective actions. Words do matter. Islam has been equated with terrorism for too long. Mr. Obama has taken the lead in disassociating these two words. We all have to start somewhere. Why not start with words?