July 7, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2422

Saudi Preacher Aidh Al-Qarni Praises Obama's Speech, Tells Muslims to Heed His Call for Dialogue

July 7, 2009
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 2422

In a June 10, 2009 article titled "Regarding Obama" in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi preacher Dr. Aidh Al-Qarni praises U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim world, which, he says, was "full of intelligence, tact and courtesy, unlike [those of] his predecessor Bush" - and also unlike the speeches of the Arab leaders that are full of invective and deluded notions. He then calls on the Muslims to respond to Obama's speech in kind, and to accept the hand of friendship that is extended to them instead of reacting with rudeness, rejection and suspicion.

Following are excerpts from the article, as it appeared in the English edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. [1]

"O Muslims, U.S. President Barack Obama Offered You the Greeting of Islam; Return the Greeting"

"God Almighty instructs His faithful servants, 'When a courteous greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous or of equal courtesy [Koran 4:86].' O Muslims, U.S. President Barack Obama offered you the greeting of Islam; return the greeting. God Almighty sent Moses and Aaron to the tyrant Pharaoh and instructed them, 'Speak to him mildly.' The president of the greatest country in the world came to our land and spoke to us mildly. He spoke to us mildly although he speaks from a position of strength. He is not the chancellor of a university or the president of a company or the dean of a college; he is the one who makes the most serious decisions in the world.

"The Arab poet says, 'Do not stubbornly oppose the one that can do what he says.' Barack Obama delivered a beautiful speech full of intelligence, tact, and courtesy - unlike his predecessor Bush, whose speeches were full of arrogance, haughtiness, recklessness and highhandedness. Barack Obama gave a just testimony before the world, which no other U.S. president has uttered. He referred to the greatness of Islam and cited the Koran several times. He returned the greetings of our prophet and of Moses and Issa [Jesus Christ,] may God's peace be upon them. He testified that we made the greatest contributions to the arts and to sciences and like medicine, algebra and engineering, and that we forged a great Muslim civilization in the service of mankind."

"I contrast [Obama's Speech] With Those of the... [Leaders of the] Oppressive Arab Regimes that Have Brought Our Lands Nothing but Devastation, Wars, and Defeat"

"He testified that he is not in a state of war with Islam but in a state of partnership. He asserted that the Muslims are part of America and urged us to forget the past. He asked us to engage in dialogue and to be tolerant and to turn over a new leaf. He said that we should not be prisoners of the past. What great intellect is this, what logic, and what a speech! I contrast it with the speeches of the oppressive revolutionary Arab regimes that have brought our lands nothing but devastation, wars and defeat, [the speeches of] the revolutionaries, which start with in the name of the people instead of in the name of God, [and are full of phrases like] 'We will throw Israel into the sea,' 'Fie on the despicable, who will be expelled [a phrase often used by Saddam Hussein],' and [with numerous] swearwords, curses, screams and hallucinations that are uttered only by drunkards or fools.

"Barack Obama chose his words carefully. He did not offend our sensibilities. During his trip and his speech, he acted [as befits] the most senior official in the world. He began in Riyadh, the capital of the cradle of Islam, and went on to Cairo, the meeting place of civilizations and the mother of Arab culture. He extended his hand to the Muslim world and he supported the call for interfaith dialogue [made by] the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines [i.e. the Saudi king]."

"Why Should We Be Afraid of the Openness, Candor, Frankness, and Dialogue to Which Barack Obama [Has] Called?"

"What is the most proper way for us to behave in such a situation? Our wise elders, decision-makers, opinion shapers, writers, and columnists should answer him with a speech that is rational, sensible [and] sound - [a speech] full of wisdom, softness and mildness. They should thank him and encourage him to carry out what he promised, and they should march with him step by step.

"Speeches of denunciation, condemnation, threats, skepticism, and suspicion express [only] a reckless, twisted, and immature logic. Why should we be afraid of the openness, candor, frankness, and dialogue to which Barack Obama called? Why do we have to be embarrassed or have doubts or fears? We are the [bearers] of a message and of a righteous argument. We have a holy book and we have justice on our side. Why should we have doubts or fears, when we [gave] the world the greatest civilization, and [when] we have wise men, scholars and rational people among us? Why do we have to meet mildness with rudeness, gentleness with violence, cheerfulness with frowns, and beautiful promises with suspicion?

"Some of us want Barack Obama to agree with us on everything we want. [These people] have forgotten that, at the end of the day, [Obama] is the President of the United States. Why can't we be inspired on the political level by the life of [the Prophet Muhammad,] the infallible messenger of guidance, may God's prayers and peace be upon him? Did he not go himself to the homes of the Jews and use mild words with them? Did he not partake of their food? Did he not host them in his home, as well as the Christians? In fact, his God ordered him to give [even] idolaters a chance to speak and to engage them in dialogue. God Almighty said: 'If one among the Pagans asks thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah [Koran 9:6].'

"Why do we block our ears and close our eyes and hearts?... Have we not had enough of what his predecessor Bush did to us? He occupied our land, killed our children, demolished our homes, disregarded our values, wounded our pride, and put us all in the dock? But God has removed him and relieved the world of him."

"We Tell Barack Obama: 'What a Blessed Hour, O Abu Hussein! You Are a Thousand Times Welcome"

"Now we have an educated and rational president with roots in Islam. He is knowledgeable about history; he is courteous and tactful; he is kind and gentle; he is calling for dialogue and candor. [Nevertheless], some of us have replied: We do not hear or see, and we do not give and take, because we are afflicted with conspiracy theories. In fact, some of us have threatened him...

"We tell Barack Obama: 'What a blessed hour, O Abu Hussein! You are a thousand times welcome.'"


[1] The text has been lightly edited for clarity.

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