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Middle East scholars offer suggestions for Obama's bid to improve relations with Muslim world

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DogPoundPup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 03:50 PM
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Middle East scholars offer suggestions for Obama's bid to improve relations with Muslim world
CHICAGO - Intent on improving the U.S. image abroad, President Barack Obama offered an olive branch to the Muslim world in his inauguration speech Tuesday, saying ''we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.''

Many Muslims have been grown skeptical of Obama's vow to improve relations, especially after his initial silence during the recent hostilities in the Gaza Strip. But in several forums during a visit to Chicago this week, a delegation of scholars from Egypt and Saudi Arabia offered suggestions on how the Obama administration could deliver on his promise.

They called for sincere support of opposition groups and election results, a balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and other, more unusual steps. Here are excerpts:

Said Sadek, a political sociologist at the American University in Cairo: ''There's a belief he was silent (about Palestinian casualties in Gaza) because he was waiting to see the Israelis finish the job, and then he'd speak ... so there's caution because words are not enough. We want to see action.''

Sami Angawi, director of the Amar Center for Architectural Heritage in Saudi Arabia: ''He needs to encourage diversity and require (that) different schools of thought be represented in the mosques, especially in Mecca and Medina. This will affect the entire Muslim world.'' He believes Obama needs to encourage the establishment of civil society, listen to intellectuals, not just governments, and promote human rights so that dissidents know the U.S. will back them.

Abou Elela Mady, founder of the centrist al Wasat party in Egypt: ''I think I and a lot of people in the Arab world are optimistic of the Obama administration.'' But he added that Obama needs to support creation of opposition parties like his that have been fighting for 13 years to run in fairer elections in Egypt. ''We only have two choices right now - corrupt authoritarian regimes and the Muslim Brotherhood. We don't support either of them.''

Sadig Malki, assistant professor of political science at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: ''Short-term, we need some practical steps to change Muslim opinion of America.'' His suggestions: Help Muslim countries solve problems such as traffic control. Promote education in the Muslim world, including development of preschools. And expose Muslims to American culture and discourse by bringing National Public Radio to Saudi Arabia.
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oberliner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 04:21 PM
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1. A reprint of a Chicago Tribune story in the Santa Barbara News Press?
Why not just post the original Tribune story?
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 05:51 PM
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2. Support and encouragement of moderate/progressive Muslims
will help greatly.
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