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Egypt: Obama to Address Muslim World from Egypt

The date is all set. US President Barack Hussain Obama will deliver his much anticipated speech on relations with the Muslim world in Egypt on June 4 and the Egyptian blogosphere is as divided as ever, with some questioning whether Obama will turn a blind eye to the country's human rights record.

And although the speech and its content and impact on relations with the region are taking a backseat for the moment, the pressing question on many bloggers’ minds is: “Why Egypt?”

Rantings of a Sandmonkey doesn't hide his excitement, taunting other countries which have not been selected for the ‘honour’ in the process. He writes:

So, the one has chosen the land of the Nile to make his appeal to the muslim world, choosing it over options like Saudi (the birthplace of Islam), Jordan (Hey America, we will do anything for you to like us), Turkey (The Secular Muslim people, and part ally who likes to put its nose in everything) and Indonesia (They housed Obama when he was still an innocent muslim baby, before the evil Cross worshipers got to him..Boo on them).For practical reasons, the choice is brilliant, because in order to appeal to the muslim world, you have to do it from an arab country, otherwise the arab muslims won't respond. It's a chauvinism thing. The first muslims and all. So, yeah, Turkey would've been a bad choice for that reason, if not also due to its safety (yeah go to the muslim country that actually shows sex on TV). Ditto for Indonesia and any southasian countries, who, regrettebly, all of the arab countries regard as subhumansand thus an insulting choice. Saudi would've been too on the nose, especially after “the bow”, and Jordan, well, they are too small and too eager to please really. So, yeah, Egypt, as a choice makes sense (biggest arab islamic country, women can drive here, we are secular but not really, and no bowing has occured between Obama and Mubarak…yet). And for Personal reasons, I like it, because it's like the ugly girl getting picked to go to the prom by the school's top hunk.

On the lack of support the visit is getting from some circles in Cairo, Sandmonkey notes:

Lots of democracy activists are not happy, especially leftists ones. They are considering the visit as cowering to a dictator and giving him undeserved prominence. This is incredibly funny to me personally, because I always thought their position on America's push for democracy and rights in Egypt as “unwanted imperialistic interference in Egyptian affairs, and anyone who wants it is a tratorous stupid ignorant zionist jew spy dog”. At least this was the case the Bush years. How time changes things.

Moh@lyics poses several questions on the upcoming visit, among them:

What does it mean that Obama after more than 100 days of thinking choose Egypt to address and reconnect the Muslim world?

Does this mean that the US see a potential in Egypt to rise and take its abdicated role again?

Does this mean that the US will ignore the authoritarian ruling issues that were the main point of conflict with the Bush admin.?

For more of Mohaly‘s questions and responses from his readers, click on the link above.

And Zeinobia, who writes at Egyptian Chronicles, is also excited with the choice and says:

Cairo is the true choice as the heart of the Arab world indeed with its weight and history in the region ,it would be the prefect place to address the Arab Muslim world despite the fact that its regime is considered Pro-American but on the other hand Obama can’t say that speech in other countries in the region whether for security measures or for political measures “French influence zone” or for influence measures.

Moving on the practical matters, Zeinobia starts thinking out aloud about the venue of the speech:

But I wonder how the security will be in Cairo then and where he will say that speech taken in consideration it will not be like his speech in Germany. Will it be from the parliament or from Al-Azhar or from the Presidential palace or even Abdeen Palace which only is opened from VIPs guests when Mubarak wants to impress them.

Zeinobia also shares more of her thoughts on the visit in other post here.

Meanwhile, writing at Foreign Policy Passport, Marc Lynch casts doubt on Cairo as a venue and then notes:

I imagine that the choice of Cairo came about by process of elimination. They probably wanted it to be a core Arab country, since he already spoke in Turkey and presumably will go on a homecoming trip to Indonesia down the road. Saudi Arabia is a non-starter, the other Gulf states are too small to carry the weight, and no North African states really fit the bill. Lebanon has an election coming up and a host of its own issues. Tehran… wouldn't that be a corker, but no. I had been hoping for Jerusalem — talk about high impact — but that would have been a security nightmare, a political football, and at any rate would have turned it into an “Israeli-Palestinian” event instead of a Muslim world event. Ditto for Baghdad — security, plus it would become an “Iraq” event. Jordan would have been good, I think, but Egypt is a weightier and richer location in Arab political and cultural terms. So there you go.

For more on Lynch's insight, click on the link above.

Writing in Arabic, Wa7da Masrya, says:

الكثيرون من المعارضين و الناشطين المصريين إستنكروا إختيار أوباما لمصر من اجل توجية كلمته للعرب و المسلمين
[...]
إستاء الناشطين من إختيار أوباما لأن هذا الإختيار سوف يعطي لمبارك و نظامة نقاط كثيرة و يرى الكثيرون أن هذا الإختيار يعني موافقة اوباما و دعمة لنظام ديكتاتوري يحكم بالحديد و النار و لا يحترم حقوق الإنسان و يقمع المعارضين.
إأن المصالح الامريكية في مصر بواسطة النظام الحاكم بغض النظر عن أوباما أو ا بوش هي الأقوى في كافة دول المنطقة و الدول الإسلامية فنظام مبارك قدم دعما جليلا للولايات المتحدة أثناء غزوها للعراق فكيف كانت إذن حاملات الطائرات و إمدادات الجيش الأمريكي ستصل للعراق دون قناة السويس المصرية التي قدمها النظام المصري في طبق من فضة للجيش الأمريكي
كما قدم مبارك و رجاله في امن الدولة و المخابرات خدمات جليلة أيضا بعد 11 سبنمبر و دعما لوجيستيا في نزع الإعترافات و التعذيب بل و فتح مقار أمن الدولة في مصر لعملاء المخابرات الأمريكية ليشرفوا على عمليات التحقيق للمتهمين من قبل السلطات الأمريكية الذين كان يتم إختطافهم و نقلهم لمصر للإستجواب .
لا يمكن لأوباما ان يتنصل من كل تلك الخدمات للولايات المتحدة حتى لو كان هو شخصيا معارضا لسياسات بوش
أتخيل أل مبارك و حاشيتة و مخابراته و أمن الدولة و قد هللوا فرحا بإختيار أوباما لمصر.
كما لا يمكن ان ننسي أن مبارك ينفذ التعليمات الإسرائيلية و يتعاون مع إسرائيل بشكل لم يفعله أي حاكم لدولة عربية أو إسلامية على الإطلاق
Many Egyptian opposition figures and activists condemned Obama's selection of Egypt for delivering his message to the Muslims and Arabs [...] The activists were annoyed with Obama's choice as it would give Mubarak and his regime a lot of points. Many see that this selection means that Obama approves of and supports a dictatorship which rules with iron and fire, which doesn't respect human rights and which cracks down on opposition.
The US interests in Egypt through this regime, regardless of whether it is Obama or Bush [in office], is the strongest among all Arab and Muslim countries. Mubarak's regime presented honourable support to the US during its invasion of Iraq. How then would the US aircraft carriers and the supplies for the US armies get to Iraq without the Suez Canal, which the Egyptian regime handed over to the US army on a silver platter?
Mubarak and his men at the state security and the intelligence services also presented honourable services to the US after September 11, when they provided logistical support to extract confessions, torture suspects and open up the Egyptian state security headquarters in Egypt for mercenaries from the US intelligence to supervise investigations with suspects, who were kidnapped by the US and transported to Egypt for questioning.
I don't think Obama can deny these services for the US, even if he was personally against Bush's policies. I image that Mubarak and his men, and his intelligence and state security services, were overcome with joy when Obama selected Egypt. We should also never forget that Mubarak implements Israel's directives and cooperates with Israel in a manner never seen before from an Arab or Muslim ruler.

Despite all this, the Alexandria-based blogger remains hopeful:

لكن يبقى أمل بسيط أنه ربما يكون أوباما سوف ياتي بالفعل من أجلنا للحديث إلينا و معنا و ليس مع مبارك و أنه قد ياتي لدعمنا و دعم ناشطى الحرية و ربما ياتي ليتضامن معنا و يمارس ضغوط نحن بالفعل في حاجة إليها و لا أعتبر أي ضغوط على مبارك تدخل فنحن بحاجة لهذا التضامن و تلك الضغوط من كل الناشطين و الحكام في كل مكان في العالم ,يمكن أوباما يقدر يساعدنا على العموم حنشوف
However, some hope remains that perhaps Obama is actually coming for us, to talk to us and with us and not with Mubarak; that he is coming to support us and support the freedom activists. He may even be here to show solidarity with us, exerting pressure we certainly need. I don't think that any pressure on Mubarak is interference as we need this solidarity and all the pressure and support we can get from all the activists and leaders around the world. Perhaps Obama can help us. At any rate, we will see.

Muslim Brotherhood blogger Abdulmonem Mahmood, who writes at Ana Ikhwan, wonders whether Obama would interact with the brotherhood during his visit. He writes [Ar]:

إذا أراد أوباما فعلا أن يظهر أنه رجل تغيير لابد أن يكون عادلا في كل القضايا سواء مواقف بلاده المنحازة لإسرائيل علي حساب القضية الفلسطينية إضافة إلي وجوب إداركه أن الحركات الإسلامية المعتدلة مثل الإخوان المسلمين تمثل حائطا صدا قويا تجاه أفكار المتطرفين من القاعدة وشبيهتها وأن عليه أن يتوقف عن دعم الدول المستبدة التي تقف أمام تطور هذه الحركات في بلادها
If Obama really wanted to prove that he is a man of change, then he has to be just on all issues, including his country's blind support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinian cause. He should also realise that moderate Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood represents a deterrent wall against the extremist ideologies of Al Qaeda and similar groups. He should also stop supporting repressive regimes which stand against the development of such movements (Muslim Brotherhood) in their countries.

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