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Obama’s Cairo Speech

By Middle EastJune, 2009December 12th, 20239 min read

You’ve probably heard a lot about Barack Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week. Plenty was said before and after, and it may come to be a watershed moment in US-Muslim relations. Now some of you might’ve read the speech, or watched it (it’s quite long), but for those who haven’t (and those who have), here is an abridged version that will give you the gist of what all the fuss was about:

Good afternoon. My name is Barack Hussein Obama, leader of what used to be the free world. I don’t look like previous presidents, my name makes you wonder what I am, and I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to pronounce Arabic words the same way you do, even stressing the second syllable in Islam just like you do. Thanks in advance for the thundering applause every time I quote the Koran. I do that to establish some kind of connection between our peoples. It’s called empathy. A lot of this speech is about empathy, which is a uniquely western concept that I’d like you to understand. I will wait until the day I die for some reciprocity; with more speeches like this, it is sure to come soon.

Americans aren’t all rednecks and colonialists, just like Muslims aren’t all fundamentalists and terrorists. I’m really sorry for all the bad stuff we did to you. I’m even sorry for the mess the British and French made divvying up the Middle East after the World War I (although they were just making deals with regional Caliphs to entrench them in power). I’m sorry for everything anyone has done to the Muslim world, or anything you think we might’ve done, or anything you think we might do. I will use the term ‘mistrust’ to refer to all of that, and use it as many times as possible as a proxy for apologising. To show I’m balanced, I will mention one or two of the really bad stuff the Muslim world (ooops, I mean a few lone terrorists in the name of Islam) have done to the West.

Make no mistake: Islam is a part of America. We’ve seen what ‘home grown’ terrorists have done in the UK, and we are sh*t-scared of what they might do to us. Because we can’t close our borders and because our Dept of Homeland Security are a bunch of inept fools, we’ve decided that if we appease the Muslim world, they might not want to blow up our citizens.

There are a few specific issues I want to raise today.

Everyone thinks that violent extremism is something associated with Islam. We prefer to think that by pumping money into third-world dictatorships and hoping that they spend it on education and infrastructure, everyone will just put down their weapons and smile, just like the scene in Airplane! (aka Flying High) where the stewardess plays the guitar for the sick girl. Given the way much of the Muslim world educate their young in a culture of hatred and death, such a plan would probably take at least three generations, but we prefer to think it can happen within a single presidential term.

Again, I’m really sorry about Iraq. It wouldn’t have happened under my watch. We’re glad be rid of Saddam Hussein, and despite it going really badly for a few years, it does seem that Iraq will emerge as a genuine democracy. But we think there’s a far better way to transform the Middle East, and that’s by letting you do it yourselves, when you’re good and ready.

Now, onto Israel and the Palestinians. I want to acknowledge the claim of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, but so as not to offend anyone, I won’t say that it is biblical and goes back thousands of years, but rather is based on the fact Jews have been mistreated for a really long time, and deserve better. Also, I will balance that by acknowledging the Palestinian claim on the same land, and that they have been displaced for over 60 years. This has only really bothered them for 40-odd years since their Arab brethren lost a war in just six days, but 60 years does sound like a lot. Indeed, it’s at least three generations of people who have just stayed put, refused to get on with their lives, played victim and been used as a pawn to demonize Israel.

We are committed to a two-state solution. The fact that there is currently one state and two de-facto basket case self-governing authorities who hate each other even more than they hate Israel occupying the space now will not stop us. We are committed to a two-state solution. We will demand that Israel maintain trade with a people who swear to destroy them and fire rockets at daily, hoping they will land on schools. We will demand that Israel clear out of some disputed areas because any Palestinian state must be Jew-free, even though there are millions of Arabs and Palestinians livings as Israeli citizens and doing really well. We believe very strongly in reciprocity and balance, but we also accept that some people just can’t stomach the thought of having Jews live in their country.

We’ve learnt a lot from our experience with nuclear weapons. We’ve learnt that the doctrine of ‘mutually assured destruction‘ worked quite well when it was us and the Russians. We don’t think it will work quite as well with Iran, so we’d like them to stop. We’d like to think they could be a responsible user of nuclear power, although with all that oil, you have to wonder why they didn’t just invest in some refineries if this was all about energy. Anyway, if they don’t start complying with our demands, we will make sure the UN gets really, really angry with them, and writes them a letter telling them how angry they are.

I want to talk to you about democracy. We like to call ourselves the ‘free’ world because we’ve done a reasonable job with the democracy. We know you don’t understand it, and never will. We know that it goes against a lot of cultural principles that you hold dear. In fact, talking about democracy in a country like Egypt is actually a bit of a joke. But we genuinely think that if we come to you with open arms, you might embrace some of these principles of liberty and free speech that we discovered hundreds of years ago and which is why our society kept advancing and yours remains stalled in the middle ages.

Some more of those principles we discovered were things like tolerance, and women’s rights. We are so damn tolerant, we let anyone say anything they like, and do almost anything they like in our country. Hell, Israel is so tolerant, they have people in their elected parliament that want to destroy the very country they live in. If you’d be a little more tolerant, you might be surprised at what would happen. There would be a revolution in your country, your leaders would lose power, there would be a fair bit of sectarian violence as a result, and eventually, you would emerge as a strong democracy. Considering what happened in Iraq (and again, sorry for that), maybe you wouldn’t be quite so surprised. Anyway, democracy is good. And women are about half your population, and a lot smarter than you think. I only managed to beat Hilary Clinton for the job of president because colour trumps gender. And even then, I still had to give her an important job because otherwise I’d have to watch my back for at least four long years.

Finally, I want to talk about economic development. Is it any surprise you’re a breeding ground for terrorists when you have that many people sitting around doing nothing all day? You think we’re scared? How about all those unemployed Muslims in France and the Netherlands? The problem is that so many of you have relied on natural resources like oil to build wealth and prosperity. And then those in power have kept all that wealth for themselves and their cronies. It’s not a recipe for long-term success. If you copy us, and invest in industry and jobs, then you’ll have a strong and robust economy like ours (hey – when did you guys write this?).

To wrap up then, I’m going to very gently allude to your culture of blame, but oh so gently that you won’t notice or take offence. Then I’m going to refer to the biblical principle of ‘do unto others as we would have them do unto you’, but not actually refer to its source in the Jewish Torah or Old Testament. A few fluffy quotes from the Koran, the Talmud, and the Bible should be enough to finish with a fabulous ovation.

The people of the world can live together in peace. I seriously believe that speeches like this and our leftist policy of appeasement will get us there. Even though none of you do, the policymakers I’ve surrounded myself with do. Besides, there are enough people in my own country who want to kill me, and I don’t need you guys taking a number.

Normally, I would finish with ‘God bless America’, but you might be offended by that, so ‘God’s peace be upon you’. Thank you. Thank you. And again, sorry.

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