is really a speech to help fix Arab-US relations.
Reza Aslan’s post Memo to Obama: Leave Egypt criticized his choice of Cairo as the location of a speech to Muslims because Arabs make a small fraction (10%) of Muslims, and coupled with the gross human rights violations, the president should be more apt to choose Indonesia because it is “moderate, pluralistic, wildly successful democratic country whose citizens just last month overwhelming voted for secular and moderate Muslim parties over the country’s more radical Islamist groups”. As correct as Aslan is, and as much as people say it’s about Muslims, the real public relations problem is with Arabs.
The media talks a lot about the poor image of Americans in Arab states, but that is not a one-way street. In a recent poll about half of Americans have an unfavorable view of Muslims (in another poll that makes my stomach turn, almost half of Americans think torture is sometimes justified – even human rights aside, torture does not produce good intelligence!). As much work as we have to turn public opinion in Arab (Muslim) nations, we have a lot of work to do in our own country.
To me, these kinds of opinions are complete tragedy for humanity. The fact that our view is so narrow that we find it difficult to differentiate the difference between Arab and Muslim (and Persian, for that matter), makes our task in the Middle East all that harder. It doesn’t help that the only Muslims the media talks about are in the Middle East, not to put any blame on the media, but images are powerful.