Obama speech gets mixed reviews from US Muslims, Jews

June 5th, 2009 - 1:28 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 5 (IANS) President Obama’s historic speech to “reboot” relations with the Islamic world received enthusiastic reviews from American Muslims, but the reaction of the US Jewish community was mixed.

In the Washington area, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) hosted a 6 a.m. viewing of the speech for local Muslim groups and community leaders.

Reaction to the speech by viewers at CAIR “was universally positive,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group cited by the Washington Post. “People really thought he set a new tone, a new direction for American policy toward the Muslim world, particularly in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”

Amaney A. Jamal, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton and co-editor of “Race and Arab Americans after 9-11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subjects,” called the speech “fabulous” and a “180-degree turn from the Bush administration.”

Mahdi Bray, executive director MAS Freedom, a network of Muslim-American community groups, said the speech was “a breath of fresh air… as an American Muslim, I was inspired from the standpoint of feeling that this could be finally a breakthrough in terms of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world,” he said.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, admired the way the speech was “designed to address a wide range of problems across a broad region.” But the very breadth of the speech may make it harder for the message to get across at home, Zogby was quoted as saying by CNN.

American Jews responded cautiously to the speech, in which a US president referred to “occupation” and “Palestine”, CNN said

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was pleased that there was no linkage between the Iranian issue and the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, but he didn’t think Obama delivered a strong message about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The Anti-Defamation League, the US group that monitors and fights anti-Semitism, said Obama’s speech was “groundbreaking and honest,” but the president “missed an opportunity” to place the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in proper historical perspective.

The American Jewish Committee, a group dedicated to safeguarding Jews and Jewish life, welcomed the speech, praising the rejection of anti-Semitism and embracing Israel’s legitimate right to exist.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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