Muslims wait for signs of change from Obama

May 19, 2011

Officially, President Obama was talking to the Muslim world in his
State Department speech in May, but U.S. Muslims were equally interested
in how their faith will be treated in a post-Osama bin Laden era.

Muslims tuned in hoping for clear direction from Obama on America's
plans for the unrest in the Middle East and the strained relations with
Pakistan, a critical but wobbly ally in the fight against terrorism.

Najam, who teaches international relations at Boston University, said
Muslims—weary of being depicted as fundamentalists and terrorists—want
to be taken seriously as partners in democracy who have risked their
lives to overthrow Arab dictatorships.

That change in image, he
said, could improve the image that Americans have of their Muslims
neighbors. "American Muslims are asking, 'What does it mean to be Muslim
in America? What will this mean for my children in school tomorrow?'"
Najam said. "To be not talked about as the 'other' or as the enemy is a
very big thing."

Ibrahim Ramey of the Washington-based Muslim
American Society welcomed Obama's May 19 speech for acknowledging the
generally nonviolent Arab Spring of 2011, but wished Obama could say the
same about the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

also criticized Obama's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
which he said didn't take sufficient account of Palestinian aspirations
for an independent state.

"Many Muslims in the U.S. would be
hesitant to say that peace can be achieved without America reevaluating
its position on Palestine and Israel," Ramey said, adding that most U.S.
Muslims "recognize the legitimate right of the Jewish people" to a
peaceful and secure Israel.  —RNS