Muslims See Obama Shifting Attitude, Policy

June 4, 2009 - 8:43 AM
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Cairo (AP) - Muslims greeted President's Barack Obama's speech from Cairo Thursday as a mark of a changed American attitude toward them and a new policy on the Middle East. But some insisted they still need to see action to back up his words.
 
Obama touched on many themes Muslims wanted to hear. He insisted Palestinians must have a state and said continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank is not legitimate. He assured them the U.S. would pull all it troops out of Iraq by 2012 and promised no permanent U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
 
"The part of Obama's speech regarding the Palestinian issue is an important step under new beginnings," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "It shows there is a new and different American policy toward the Palestinian issue."
 
Mahmoud Ramahi, a legislator from Abbas rival Hamas, offered qualified praise for the speech.
 
"I have followed the speech closely. There are many positive points," he said. "There is a difference between his policy and Bush's policy. I see a change in the U.S. foreign policy discourse. But the problem is still on the ground. Would they achieve a Palestinian independent state? If he does that, that would be a relief and good for all parties."
 
Obama, aiming to repair ties with the Muslim world that had been strained under his predecessor George W. Bush, struck a respectful tone. He opened with the traditional greeting in Arabic "Salaam Aleikum," and listed many of the grievances of Muslims against the U.S. and the West. He quoted several times from the Quran, the Islamic holy book, drawing applause from his audience at Cairo University.
 
Baghdad resident Mithwan Hussein called Obama "brave."
 
"I think it's a good start and we hope he will open a new chapter with Islamic world and Arab Nation in particular," he said.
 
But not everyone was impressed.
 
Wahyudin, the 57-year-old director of a hard-line Islamic boarding school in Jakarta, Indonesia, said "I don't trust him." He spoke as he watched the speech on television.
 
"He's just trying to apologize to Muslims because of what America -- or really Bush -- has done in the past," said Wahyudin, who goes by one name. "He's promising to be different. But that's all it is, a promise. We want action. We want to see an end to all intervention in Muslim countries. That's what we're fighting for."
 
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Associated Press reporters Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza and Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed to this report.