Obama on the Muslim Circuit

Obama has appointed Muslim aides. Indonesia may host him as a Muslim in June. Great expectations or a boomerang on the horizon?

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 11:01

Obama and Gambian President  Yahya Jammeh
Obama and Gambian President Yahya Jammeh
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

U.S. President Barack Obama is continuing his “reaching out to Muslims” approach by consulting more with Muslim advisors. In June, he will visit Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. Several analysts question whether the moves are more symbolic than real, and one warns they might help terrorists topple the kingdom in Saudi Arabia.

President Obama dramatically appealed to Muslims around the world in a speech in Cairo last June. At home, after distancing himself from Muslims in his campaign for president, he appointed the White House’s first Muslim advisor, Egyptian-born Dalia Mogahed, who supports and has defended the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), both of which expressed views in support of Hamas and the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

Other moves to embrace Muslims include the president’s invitation to Kenyans, the native country of his father, to an entrepreneurial summit next week. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year overturned a Bush administration ban against the entry into the United States of the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan. Mogahed was among those who welcomed him and also appeared in public with him.

The New York Times last week reported that President Obama is working behind the scenes to build closer ties with Muslims while avoiding the limelight through not taking actions such as attending a mosque.

However, a writer for the Jakarta Post states, “It is not totally wrong if Indonesian Muslims greet him, when he visits Indonesia next June, as a Muslim brother. Indonesian Christians also can do the same. What is in his website that he has never been Muslim is correct in the sense that he never voluntarily and officially registered himself, when he was adult, as Muslim….

“Islam is more than a religion and is a way of life…. The arrival of Obama can be used as a good opportunity for Indonesian Muslims to embrace the fact that Islam is a peace-loving religion.”

While Muslim expectations rise, pro-Israel columnist Daniel Pipes discounts President Obama’s moves as anything more than window dressing. James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute told the Times, "For the first time in eight years, we have the opportunity to meet, engage, discuss, disagree, but have an impact on policy,” but Pipes responded that former President George W. Bush also bent over backwards for Muslim support.

“One can find inconsistencies and exceptions, but the overall Bush record showed great concern for Muslim opinion,” Pipes wrote. He pointed out that Bush added a Koran to the White House library and called Islam a “religion of peace.”

For a rebuttal of Pipes column, click here.

However, Middle East think tank analyst Barry Rubin warns that President Obama’s “reaching out to Muslims approach” is based on naïve thinking.

Rubin wrote on the Blitz.com web site, “What is Obama thinking? … For him, the bow to the Saudi king (and others) symbolizes Obama's commitment to show that America is ‘just one of the guys’ among countries… Once he shows he can hang out with the Third World, Obama seems to reason, why would anyone hate America anymore?”

The analyst reasoned that the Obama’s administration of being “tough on Israel by not being tough on the radicals” may result in Muslim fanatics succeeding in bringing down the Saudi kingdom, which Rubin pointed out “is on the front line with Iran and dependent on U.S. protection [while] the Jewish state…can take care of itself.”