Monday, June 01, 2009

Ali Alyami on Obama's Cairo Speech


Autocratic Arab regimes as well as their supporters and financial beneficiaries in the West and elsewhere, argue that free elections in the Arab world would bring religious extremists and anti-democratic elements into power. They use Hezbollah and Hamas as examples of what Arabs would do if they were free to elect their representatives. In reality, extremists in Egypt and Saudi Arabia gained prominence due to the regimes’ oppressive policies, embezzlement of public wealth and politics of nepotism. Most Arabs and Muslims, especially youth, women, businesspeople and religious minorities, loath religious extremism, and the strict implementation of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia in particular. The overwhelming majority of Saudis and Egyptians are not extremist Wahhabis or members of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamists.

The success of the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt will depend on his understanding of the root causes of problems in the Arab world, and his willingness to refute the decades’ old and well rehearsed excuses the Arab regimes have used to manipulate every American president for the last sixty years. President Obama must recognize that the Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with the multitude of problems plaguing Arab societies: oppression of women, poverty, terrorism, religious extremism and intolerance.

Yes, there are anti-American sentiments among many Arabs; however this is mostly caused by U.S. Administrations’ support for Arab despots, rather than America’s support for Israel as Arab regimes and their controlled media want the world to believe.

Many people understand and can appreciate the problems President Obama faces, but few would applaud him for supporting autocratic Arab regimes whose policies and institutions are responsible for problems in the U.S. President Obama can serve his country best by steering its support away from undemocratic regimes and reach out to modern and pro-democracy Arab men and women who are able and willing to propel their societies to a better and safer future. Sixty years of supporting autocratic Arab regimes has only brought extremism, terrorism and 9/11. The choice for President Obama is very clear: continue policies that have failed or put forward a plan that will serve the best interest of the U.S. and its democratic values.