Shadi Hamid of Democracy Arsenal had a piece in Saturday’s Washington Post contemplating the possibilities of Barack Obama’s speech last week on race relations applied to Americans’ relationship with Arabs and Muslims abroad:
Obama declared that "the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding." He was speaking, of course, about the legacy of slavery and segregation. But he might as well have been talking about the burgeoning anger toward
felt by millions of frustrated Muslims around the world. And the conversation Obama tried to initiate -- contextualizing radicalism and seeking its source rather than merely denouncing it -- is the sort of conversation that could also lay the groundwork for a long-overdue reassessment of our approach to the Middle East. America
Thus far, the national discourse on the question of Muslim anti-Americanism, and particularly the violence and terror perpetrated in the name of Islam, has been dominated by condemnation and denunciation. As it must be. Targeting innocents -- whether they are Israeli children on their way to school or the nearly 3,000 Americans who showed up to work one day and found it would be their last -- can never be excused. And we must unapologetically wage war on those who seek to destroy us.
At the same time, we can't simply wish future violence and terrorism away by relegating it to the domain of irrational, crazed fanaticism. We cannot say that "they hate us for who we are" and leave it at that.
Beyond the small hardcore of terrorists who slaughter innocents are tens of millions of Arabs and Muslims who sympathize with the terrorists' anger but disagree with their means of expressing it. This is not some nebulous group. It's people like my relatives in
, who repeatedly tell me that we deserved Sept. 11. People like my friends in Egypt Egyptand , who feel that in my Americanness I have betrayed my brethren, the oppressed, and the humiliated. Jordan
We can call these people enemies and say they are lost to us. It would be easy, because these views are indeed reprehensible. Or we can articulate a new strategy, one which, without condoning violence, acknowledges their grievances and their very real sense of being wronged by history. …
Understanding is no cure-all but it is a necessary first step to improving troubled relationships both at home and abroad.
You can read his entire column here.