The Obama Presidency: Reactions from the Muslim World

This past weekend the New York Times featured blogger reactions from the Arab world to Barack Obama’s campaign victory in the US presidential elections. Most reactions are similar to those of many Americans and include apprehensions over whether the president-elect can fulfill the enormous expectations heaped onto him by the previous administration’s reputation around the world. The Damascene Blog in Syria asked:

Dare we hope that the eight-year nightmare is over?

Bloggers also commented on the symbolic victory of a non-white man as president-elect of the United States. Tamem from Egypt said (translated from Arabic by Josie Delap of The Economist):

The victory of Barack Hussein Obama that we, along with the rest of the world, are witnessing today is another historic moment, not just for America but for the whole world by virtue of America’s huge influence, whether we like it or not. Personally I, like others, doubted Americans’ ability to overcome racism, but in electing “Abu Hussein,” they created a historic moment by accepting the first black president to govern not just America but the white West as a whole. With this, they removed all such doubts and the impossible dream of Martin Luther King became possible.

While there are many big decisions coming up in regards to the so-called war on terror and US national security issues, the first bi-racial president-elect carries meaning for Muslims worldwide. Obama is not himself a practicing Muslim, but his name, his race, and his open-minded political stance about Muslim countries has had enlightening influence on the dialogues and debates in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially.

Juan Cole of Informed Comment lays out the ground work for political reform in Iraq and Afghanistan with current articles and blog entries.

Al Jazeera also presents commentary from Islamic countries and Muslim perspectives on the 2008 elections. Check out the comments section for some exciting messages about faith in America and on Islam from the English-speaking world.

The New York Times, Informed Comment, and Al Jazeera all point out that the worldwide commentary about the Obama presidency is a mix of hope for peace in Islamic countries and skepticism whether the US can enforce such agreements without force.

International Election Coverage and the Smear Campaign Against Obama

I’ve mentioned the “smear campaign” against Barack Obama and rumors that he is a Muslim or Arab or terrorist on Inside Islam before. They have been top of mind for many Americans throughout the presidential campaign, including Colin Powell. One of the major incidents from election coverage happened at a campaign rally for John McCain, where a woman accused Obama of being untrustworthy and called him an Arab.

International editor for The Week Susan Caskie joins On the Media for “President of the World,” in which she says this controversy was picked up by media throughout the Muslim world, too. She reiterates a predominant question posed by international media: “Why can’t you be both a decent family man and an Arab?” The underlying question, I think, is whether democracy can thrive in the globalized, modern world despite what Samuel Huntington called “The Clash of Civilizations.”

Countries in the Muslim world are looking at the US presidential elections for answers and hope that president-elect Obama could be a role model for the democratic process in other countries. As nations become increasingly interconnected through trade and diplomatic ties, could democracy help us understand and value Muslim and Arab culture at home and abroad?

Read the whole transcript of “President of the World” here.

Updated 11-17-2008

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