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President Barack Obama has just pledged to make a new start for United States relations with the Muslim world: "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he said in his inaugural address. "To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." (Photo: President Obama delivers his inaugural address, 20 Jan 2009/Jason Reed)
It's not clear what he plans to do. One idea he's mentioned is to deliver a major speech in a Muslim country in his first year in office. There's already a lively discussion on the web about where he should go. During his speech, CNN showed a shot of the crowd with some people holding up signs urging him to deliver the speech in Morocco.
Before this train starts rolling, it might be useful to recall that some Islam experts don't think it's a good idea for him to deal with "the Muslim world" as a bloc opposed to the West. Two French experts on Islam, Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse, argued this in a New York Times op-ed piece last month. Here is the full text and below are excerpts.
Do you think it's helpful for Obama to talk about the Muslim world as a distinct bloc? Would he actually play into Osama bin Laden's hands by talking about the Muslim world and the West as distinct entities? If so, what should he do?
Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States on Tuesday. In his much-anticipated inaugural speech, he said the “economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
But the new president also said the United States remained “the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth,” and that “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”