January 25, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2103

Initial Arab Media Reactions to Obama's Election

January 25, 2009
Special Dispatch No. 2103

Initial reactions in the Arab world to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election focused on several aspects. While some writers discussed which candidate would be better for the Arabs, others compared the democratic process in the U.S. with the situation in the Arab world, where such turnover in government is impossible.

Following are excerpts from some of the reactions:

Al-Qaradhawi: The Democrats Are Like a Snake That "Kill[s] You Slowly Without You Noticing"

In a fatwa published on the eve of the U.S. elections, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi expressed his preference for Sen. John McCain as president: "Personally, I would prefer for the Republican candidate, [John] McCain, to be elected. This is because I prefer the obvious enemy who does not hypocritically [conceal] his hostility toward you… to the enemy who wears a mask [of friendliness]."

Al-Qaradhawi added: "Whoever thinks that the Democrats are less hostile to [the Arabs] than the Republicans should know that the number of Iraqis killed during the siege [of Iraq] by the Democrat Bill Clinton is twice as high as the number of [Iraqis] killed by the Republican [George] Bush.

"The Democrats kill you slowly without you noticing it - and therein lies the danger. They are like a snake whose touch is not felt until its poison enters your body.

"Therefore, I hope that McCain comes to power, so that the motivation for jihad remains in our hearts, and so that we do not [begin to] rely on the infidels - [which will cause us] to be struck by the fire [of Hell]." [1]

Iranian Daily: "That Black Man" Will Never Change U.S. Policy

In an editorial, the Iranian daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami stated: "The most that that black man can do in the White House is to replace some of the staff and change some ceremonial procedures. He will never manage to change the structure of the American regime, which was established by capitalists, Zionists, and racists."

The paper added that President Obama would not bring change to the world, because both the Democrats and Republicans were party to the U.S.'s oppressive and interest-driven foreign policy. Therefore, it said, any changes that do occur would be tactical rather than strategic. [2]

Syrian Daily: "We Hereby Declare Obama the 44th President [Before It's Official]... Even If It Might Be Considered Irresponsible Journalism"

In its headline, the Syrian daily Al-Watan named Obama president even before the official results were announced. The editorial that accompanied the headline explained: "We wanted to declare Obama president... as a show of solidarity with millions of Americans, Arabs, and colleagues in the world media who [all] yearn for 'change' in U.S. foreign policy. They are all betting on Obama - who has been waving the slogan [of change]… in hope that he will be different not only in the color of his skin, but also in his view regarding Washington's policy towards the world…

"Some claim that if Obama wins he will be no better than Bush, if not worse... They may be right, since it is well known that no American president has ever stood on the side of the Arabs - rather, they have all stood on the side of Israel…

"Yesterday was undoubtedly a long, exhausting, and historic day by any standard. The American people [voted] with a vigor not seen in any [previous] U.S. presidential election, in a bid to make history and change the ugly face of the U.S.

"Out of respect for them and for everyone who voted for change, and out for respect for the souls of the Syrian, Iraqi, and Arab martyrs, we hereby declare Obama the 44th president of the U.S., even if it might be considered irresponsible journalism. We are sure that our readers will forgive us if we turn out to be wrong - [a possibility] for which we do not hope."

Saudi Daily: No Difference Between Obama and McCain

The Saudi daily Al-Watan stated in an editorial: "There is no significant difference between Obama and McCain. They disagree only on the means to achieve America's chief goal, which is to rule for another hundred years." [3]

Al-Hayat Columnist/Al-Arabiya Deputy Director: "The Faces [in the White House] Change in a Way That We Find Impressive"

Daoud Al-Shiryan, columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Hayat and deputy director of Al-Arabiya TV, praised American democracy, comparing it to the nondemocratic processes in the Arab world: "The U.S. elections afford a kind of change that does not occur in the Arab 'democracies'... The faces [in the White House] change in a way that we find impressive.

"Over the next few days, the world will see a new staff [there], while the current names will forever disappear from the [stage of] American politics. The [current] stars of American politics will go home, and the day after they leave the White House, the American public will see them standing in line at the airport, at the supermarket, or at the dentist's office...

"While America watches this turnover of personnel [in the White House]... the Arabs are following [attempts in] Algeria to amend the constitution and remove the restriction on the number of consecutive terms allowed the president - so that 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bouteflika can continue with a third term in office, and perhaps [remain in office] until the end of his life.

"In the past few days in Egypt, the [ruling] NDP party showed its impressive ability to retain the same people over three decades. [Egypt] uses ballots just like the U.S. - but does so the Arab way.

" The situation is similar in the other Arab democratic republics as well..." [4]


[1] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), November 4, 2008.

[2] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), November 4, 2008.

[3] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), November 5, 2008.

[4] Al-Hayat (London), November 5, 2008.

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