Obama in Egypt
I saw this post today - Will Obama address the Muslim world or the Arab world? - at Reuters Faith World blog. Normally, I'd probably not read this post because I don't know much about the subject. But I've been reading some novels lately that take place in the Middle East, so though I still don't understand all about this stuff, I've become interested.
I know novels are not normally a good source of info - they can be inaccurate or skewed - but for me they can inspire an enthusiasm for a subject that makes me want to look everything up. So I, who once only knew about Egypt that Cleopatra's ancestor Ptolemy took rule of the country after Alex the Great's death, that the emperor Hadrian's love interest died falling over the side of a barge on the Nile, and that you start mummy making by removing the brain through the nostrils :), now also know a little bit about contemporary Egypt and sort of why it's significant that Obama's giving his speech there.
Here's the beginning of the Faith World post ....
When President Barack Obama delivers his long-awaited speech in Cairo on Thursday, will he address the Muslim world or the Arab world? In the pre-speech build-up, it’s being called a speech “to the Muslim world” or “to the world’s 1.x billion Muslims” (the estimated total mentioned in different articles fluctuates between 1and 1.5 billion). But the venue he’s chosen — Cairo — and all the focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict make it sound like a speech to and about the Middle East.
The Middle East is the heartland of Islam, but Arabs make up only about 20 percent of the world’s Muslims. Not all Arabs are Muslims. And non-Arab Iran is a major part of the Middle Eastern political scene. So is it correct to call this a speech to the Muslim world? Would it be better to call it a speech to the Middle East?
There is such an important overlap between the Arab and the Muslim worlds that it is hard to disentangle them. The Palestinian issue concerns Muslims around the world, but with varying intensity depending partly on whether it figures in regional politics or stands as a more distant symbol of oppression against Muslims. Politics can also poison Muslim relations with Jews, which can range from bitter enmity to interfaith cooperation depending on where, when and how one looks. The U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq may be justified in Washington as operations against international terrorism, but in Muslim countries they are often seen as attacks on Muslims and Islam.
When this speech was first announced as an address to the Muslim world, I blogged here and here that he should deliver it in Turkey or Indonesia because they were doing more to reconcile Islam and modern democracy than any Arab state. “As a politician from a country where church-state relations are a lively issue, one could expect him to ask what message his choice will send concerning the political relationship with religion in the state he chooses,” I wrote .....