In pleasant contrast to his predecessor, Barack Obama is a cultured, sensitive, educated, well-mannered man and these personal qualities were on ample display and much appreciated in Cairo on Thursday. But the Muslim world on whom the government of the United States has declared a unilateral, indiscriminate, unconventional war of collective reprisal, unconstrained by any law of war, also looks beyond the person of Barack Obama, to the President of the United States, and those he represents (primarily the government and the élite, but also the people, of the United States of America).
In responding to his speech therefore they try to evaluate both what chance he has of carrying with him the groups that constitute his power base, and what this may mean for their own lives. In this, naturally, the response of the miniscule but decisively powerful minority living in, or having extensive dealings with citizens of the United States and allied countries, is different from that of the barely audible overwhelming majority living in the nations where hostilities are being conducted. The former, naturally, are more concerned with living conditions of Muslim minorities in Christianate societies; the latter, more with life in and around the battlefields that their countries have become.
Since the former are the near exclusive source of advice to aggressor governments, and of “representative” “Muslim” opinion in the media, this bias in concerns and perspectives is carried over into the public discourse. As a result, in public discussion, the burden of blame and adjustment is placed more on the victims of State violence in distant countries, while the perpetrators are absolved of all blame. Thus, while it is acceptable to dwell at length on the failings of the “Muslim” world, more than a passing reference to the faults of the Christianate world (even this symmetric description may be found objectionable) is considered not just wrong but also rude.
Yet, not everything can be said at all times. The remarks on Mr. Obama’s speech presented below privilege this less audible viewpoint, without reciting either the usual litany of all the faults of the victims of this global violence, or of the special circumstances that are habitually cited to excuse the behaviour of Christianate States.This omission is not meant to deny (or affirm) the validity of these criticisms and concerns, which are more than amply represented in public discussions; the intent, rather, is to bring out into the open the views of the more dis-engaged silenced majority, which can only lead to greater understanding. It also follows Mr. Obama’s advice in his speech (see below) that:
“…we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors.”
With this explanatory caveat, the official transcript of Mr. Obama’s speech is reproduced below, with comments and remarks in italics (and graphics) added.
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