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April 7th, 2009
10:17 AM ET

Commentary: Muslim world "likes" Obama's words

CNN's Kiran Chetry speaks to Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya about President Obama's message to Muslims.
CNN's Kiran Chetry speaks to Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya about President Obama's message to Muslims.

President Obama was in Turkey today. It was the last leg of his five-nation European tour and his first trip to a Muslim country since taking office. During the stop he sent a message to the world that the U.S. will never be at war with Islam.

“I am personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement. We can't afford to talk past one another, to focus only on our differences or to let the walls of mistrust go up around us.”

So how is the Muslim community reacting to the president’s visit? Hisham Melhem, Washington Bureau Chief for global Arab language network Al-Arabiya, spoke to Kiran Chetry Tuesday on CNN’s “American Morning.”

Kiran Chetry: In all, how was our president received in the muslim world?

Hisham Melhem: Well, judging by the positive headlines, by the live coverage that my network and others gave his speech yesterday in front of the Turkish parliament, the Muslim world likes what the president has been saying. Not only in Turkey, but since he was elected. And I think his words and, more importantly, his actions, have resonated positively throughout the Arab world and the Muslim world. People realize that there is a new tone, that there is a new content, that there is a new language. Gone are the combustible words that President Bush used to use like Islamo [sic] Fascism. Now the new president talks about engagement, he talks about partnership, he talks about respect, mutual interests. President Bush seemed to many Arabs and Muslims every time he talks to them as if he is talking down to them, as if he is lecturing them. This new president is trying to engage them as potential partners in the fight against the real enemy of the United States and the real enemy of these governments which is al Qaeda. The president doesn't talk about the war on terror in general because the war on terror is a war on a tactic. He has a well-defined enemy called al Qaeda. He doesn't clump like, President Bush, all Islamic groups. He focuses only on al Qaeda. All of these things, they are nuances and people recognizes nuances and they appreciate that.

Chetry: I want to ask you about that, because there are some who criticized exactly what you are saying is a good thing, saying he gave a pass perhaps to groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups that have used terror and are considered terrorist groups by our government.

Melhem: Look. President Bush, the way he framed the issue, the war on terrorism created a conceptual muddle and he confused a lot of people. When you fight an enemy, you have to define your enemy very well and President Obama is trying to do that. It doesn't do any service to the United States’ effort to defeat al Qaeda, to keep al Qaeda in a defensive posture, when you lump together all of these groups. Yes, it is true, the United States labels Hamas as a terrorist group and Hezbollah and others, but the United States is not engaging in the battlefields against Hamas. We are engaging al Qaeda on the battlefield in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. And if you want to succeed, you need Muslim allies and one way of doing that is to define your enemy very well. The United States essentially is not saying Hamas is our enemy. The United States is essentially saying what the Israeli government is saying, we will talk to Hamas if Hamas do A, B, C. It's a conditional position vis-à-vis Hamas. There is room for the United States to say we don't like Hamas and that is America's right. At the same time, you cannot classify Hamas the way you classify al Qaeda. It's al Qaeda that visited us with their destructive deed on that fine morning in September 2001. Not Hamas. As much as we don't like Hamas as a group that is pursuing certain policies that is not to the liking of the United States government.

Chetry: It appears there is still a major distrust from Americans here in the United States. This is the quote on the poll. Should the U.S. trust Muslim allies as much as other allies? The results, surprisingly, were pretty split. 51% saying yes, but nearly half saying no. Why does there seem to still be this mistrust on the part of the American people? What can be done to change that?

Melhem: Well, education, engagement, accepting the Muslim world as not necessarily this strange other but a potential partner. I was not very surprised because of the impact and the legacy of 9/11, the misunderstanding generated by the war on terrorism, the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, all of these things that created enmity in the Arab world and Muslim world and misunderstanding in the United States. There is unfamiliarity in America with the Muslim world and there is ignorance. Let's be blunt. I don't expect the average American to be an expert on Islamic jurisprudence but at least one would like to get through those negative images instead of typical images of Muslims. And here I must add there is a role for the Muslim world. I mean, now the president could look at Muslim leaders in the eye and say, I've done certain things that you wanted me to do, closing down Guantanamo, I’m getting out of Iraq. I sent a positive message to the Iranian people. I'm sending George Mitchell to mediate Arab-Israeli peacemaking but I want you to deal with the problem that afflicts your society. Which is essentially a problem of governance of which you as Muslim leaders and Muslim elites and Muslim ruling classes are responsible for. So there is a role here for the United States to be blunt and honest with the Muslim leaders and Muslim world, as well as a responsibility for the Muslim leaders and Muslim elites to fix the ailments that afflict their societies.


Filed under: Islam • Politics
soundoff (526 Responses)
  1. Gary

    Sure they do! They know that he's Muslim by birth! For a muslim that's a-o-ta!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  2. Salam

    I'm tired of hearing about the comments that moderate muslims are not standing against extremists. Are moderate of anyother religion standing against extremists in their own religion? Pakistan lost more men than USA in fight against terrorism.Give us a break!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  3. Wanda

    At some point, America will have to stop blaming President Bush for everything that they consider a mistake, etc. I, personally, think of America as a Christian country, not a Muslim country!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  4. Really Now

    Wow. How comforting to know moderate Muslims like Obama. Did anyone seriously think they wouldn't?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  5. SAH

    In general we are living in fast paced world with super communication,and above the economy of the countries are tied to each other so as values of cultures.Therefore what President of USA has seen as a global leader to focus in getting folks on a single platform to fight evils regardless of religion.None of the religion preaches killings.I believe very strongly that President Obama message in general to all muslim world is positive.However,they need to understand and act in a positive and mature way to accomplish peace and harmony.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  6. zka

    To live in peace, let live in peace.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  7. Philip Grant

    I have a questions for some of you commentors:

    Dimslie, what do you mean by "No one ever doubted that Muslims would like Obama."?
    Do you actually think the President of the United States is a secret Muslim spy? Do you think he's going to single handedly surrender our military over to Islam?

    Lee, "birds of a feather" so that means if your white you're a member of the klu klux klan? If your Irish you belong to the IRA?

    and finally Scott H, When did you hear President Obama apologize to anyone and any time during any of the speeches he delivered over the past week? He made factual statements about where our society has gone wrong and where their society has gone wrong. Then he said he needed to put that behind us and work to defeat a common enemy.
    Please tell me whats wrong with that?

    You people are so filled with contempt that you don't take time listen.
    If not that, then you just don't what to listen. In either case, I wish you well.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  8. Jocko

    What do we care what the muslim world thinks of us – Obama has done this country a great disservice by bad mouthing the US for it's so called arrogance, and kissing up to muslims.

    This character needs to be watched very carefully or else we Americans will lose everything we ever had, including our prestige.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  9. Johnny Chimpo

    I disagree with Hisham Melhem and his notion that we in the United States use a predisposed notion of who and what the Muslim and Arab world is based on what happened on 9/11. There are many other events that have occurred both before and after 9/11 that give us a pretty good idea of that area of the world. It very apparent that many people in the Arab and Muslim world hate us simply for living out our Western ideals. Places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. are our best friends right? That is a laugh, they selfish and only seek their best interests. Least we forget the money hungry Sheiks running around all over the place in their Bentley s building cities simply for bragging rights. They love the money they are rolling around in, yet at the same time do nothing to help the international community. These people turn a blind eye to the radical's in their own country, and by doing so only add to the problem. Yet at the end of the day it is United States that constantly gets bashed because we all that is wrong with the world.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  10. Samuel

    Heh, I read some of these comments and I guess it answer my question "what happen to all the open minded, outspoken conservatives and hateful bigots?"

    April 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  11. Russ

    Obama understands the situation very well, and is delivering the right message. He's stepping up the attacks on al-Qaeda, while trying to drive a wedge between them and the mass of Muslims, who seem to be receptive to his approach. Treating all Muslims as if they were al-Qaeda is a losing strategy. Ergo, not a strategy to be chosen by smart people who plan to win. Similarly, not all Nicaraguans were Sandinistas, and not all Sandinistas were implacable enemies. Mikhail Gorbachev was Soviet leader, but he wasn't faking his desire to abandon at least the worst of those politics. Supporting the moderates doesn't mean the extreme won't again attack on US soil, and we all understand that. But we want the world with us against the attackers. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld policies of lies, agression and torture drove more Muslims than we will every count toward the terrorists, and set us back at least a generation. Obama is refocusing on the only strategy that can win: ally with friends, neutralize (at least) the undecided, identify your enemy, isolate, attack.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  12. dave

    let me expound on this a little..i agree with those of you who say that moderate muslims have not done nearly enough to deal with the extremists nor do i trust most od our so called allies such as thegovenrments or pakistan..still by lumping all muslims together for those of you who do so..you are playing right into bin ladens hands as this culture religious war is exactly what he was hoping to provoke and start instead we should just wipe out al Qaeda and the other like them ..instead of helping them the way bush did when he spoke of a "crusade" however most of you bushies are to ignorant and uneducated to understand why that was a serious mistake (as was relying on afghan mercs and rewardsinstead of American Troops to capture/kill bin laden when they knew more or less where he was)

    April 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  13. Don

    Gee I wonder why?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  14. FGD

    The muslims really love obama since he bows down to the saudi king. Search the internet for pictures of obama almost kissing the kings feet.
    READ THE KORAN AND SEE WHAT THEY ARE TAUGHT AND WHAT THE BELEIVE.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  15. Steve

    sohel – your statements are baseless and not facts you should not make baseless comments. Not all jews say that first off. I am not jewish or israeli but come on

    April 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  16. Alan

    I love how the ditto heads just keep repeating what Rush Limburgher says over and over and over. What has Rush done for this country besides line his pockets by keeping people divided?

    Listen up, people - if someone says "all Americans are evil" are you going to feel more like helping defend those people against attacks from the ACTUAL enemy - a small percentage of idiots like the Ditto Heads? Or - if someone talks to you INTELLIGENTLY, points out he understands we're NOT all Ditto Heads and, therefore, we need to stand together against the Ditto Heads - would that make you feel more like lending a solid hand?

    Get over it, Bushies. Our past president was an idiot. Our past vice president was evil. We are now blessed with someone who indeed has a LOT to learn...but that's what makes him so endearing. Why? Because NOT knowing what to do is sometimes the very best way to do things in a different way and find NEW ways that actually WORK.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  17. RC

    Funny Wyatt mentions Whack Jobs. It takes a Whack Job to know one.

    But for those of us who are not as ignorant as Wyatt, we know Obama is doing a great thing. I may not have voted for him but I'm very proud of him. He's won this (mostly) Republican over.

    RC

    April 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  18. MsMHS

    Maybe Obama should go to an Islam country and practice his politics there because he sure as hell does not garner any respect from this American citizen whose forefathers fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI and WWII. They did not offer themselves up for the Muslim fath and customs. The USA has done more for Muslims than they have for Catholics or Protestants or Jews. It's time Obama realized that Christians and Jews elected him to the White House and not a handful of radical Islamic Muslims.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  19. Zain

    Dan, excellent post. Answering your question on when moderates will take a stand against extremism: we have been fighting them all along. Not physically but rather we have been fighting a war of words. The physical fight between moderates and extremists will come though. Extremism will not win.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  20. Gabe

    All of those who have posted negative comments are the problem that we face in our own country. You're brainwashed by the past 8 years of irresponsible rhetoric.

    How selfish and self-centered it is when you think that Obama wants to communicate with Muslims to make us feel good? Who do you think we are? How do you think we got here in the first place? You fail to see the big picture, which perfectly reflects the short-sighted decisions of the Bush administration.

    There is no single "answer" to terrorism, no instant gratification, no bullying. The rhetorical damage of the Bush adminisration was astounding and now Obama and his administration have to make it right to reverse the delusional paranoia that you so liberally throw spread.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  21. robert Kaminski

    Did Mr. Obama go to the Blue Mosque?

    If he did why was there no TV, or Internet coverage?/

    If not, why was his schedule changed?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  22. Samuel

    Hear is the thing. Moderates are trying to curve extremism, but it has been our actions that been hindering them for a long time.

    Why do you think Iran became an Islamic Republic instead of a Democracy? Its because we meddle with its affairs, anti Americanism didn't sprout out without a reason. Its the same with other countries as well, if you care to do research on them (don't use Wikipedia or unknown internet sources).

    During the Cold War, we made Al Qaeda and the Taliban into sufficient militants in order to prevent communism from spreading in Asia and the Middle East; and now, they are monsters on the loose. Hense why its so important that the United States achieve a true victory in Afganistan and Pakistan.

    There is a ton of ignorance within the United States that needs to knock out. We have Evangelical flagellents like John Hagaee and Parsley who are preaching the end of the world, anti-semites who foolishly believe the United States is run by Jews, and athiests creeps who are causing trouble. We swallowed lies, fabrication, and vague information at movies and Media who use controversy and bad publicity. The list continues on, and it doesn't help people who want to bring moderation to Islamic countries.

    ou know what is also sad. There are Muslim Americans who are fighting in Afganistan and Iraq, and some of them died. Yet there are Americans who still insulting their religion.

    Whle I agree with you that there there are needs of changes within the Islamic countries, you have to understand that in some countries that are predominatly Muslims, there are a handful of fools who don't pay attention to the Quran, hense the human rights abuse and honor killings (culture practice, not religious laws). Moderate Christains should watch out as well, because there is a growth of Christain extremism coming from the west and south of the United States.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  23. Mikel

    Isn't interesting how Obama's media hasn't let one negative comment through on this one? Of course they like his words..... he's handing them this country on a silver platter. I think it's disgusting. And so is he.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  24. naive

    Well, i am not surprised. After all ..Obama has Muslims in his family.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  25. Mike

    Of course they like his words, he is one of them. He weakens this country by wasting tax payer funds and weakens the military. We will not have missile defense because he is cutting that program and here are muslim nations working towards nuclear missiles. He cuts funding for the front line strike fighters to protect our troops from the air. I hope this country can survive until 2010 and finally 2012 and remove him and his demorat spenders from the congrss.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  26. Jason

    "All of this is great “propaganda” until the day we are attacked again on our own soil. These same fools that are saying how great it is to “talk” with our enemies will be asking “why….why did this happen??? Who didn’t do their job to protect us???” A very sad day indeed…."

    It's people like this who are the problem. Not all Muslims are terrorists. If you treat them like terrorists and tell them they are horrible people, they will not like you. If they don't like you, they won't help you. If you treat them with respect, they will.

    Muslims do not like terrorists any more than you or I do. They give their religion a bad name. Under Bush, they were tolerated as we were seen as an overbearing tyrant bent on empire. Which wasn't too far from the truth. Obama has extended a hand of friendship. One which most Muslims are more than willing to take.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  27. Evan

    It's about time for the uninformed citizens of the U.S o get a positive example of how to relate with groups different from their own in President Obama. Too many people lump religious extremists with the rest of the culture. America has radical Christians who terrorize women and doctors on a regular basis in our own country. Clearly though we are able to separate them from the moderate Christians here, or Christians would be persecuted on a major scale. So why is it so hard to do the same for Islam? The only answer I can think of is ignorance.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  28. Edward

    I think this interview is particularly on-target. Muslims do stand to be engaged much more as potential partners under the Obama Administration, and there is no question that particularly aiming all of our military and intelligence efforts against al Qaeda is going to get us the support we need from Muslim nations and individuals. Radical Islam, by itself, isn't actually a justification for what al Qaeda does. The terrorists of that particular network, and its true copy-cats, are disrespectful of their elders and their efforts to retain peace and pleasant relations with legitimate trading partners internationally. In essence, there are no caliphs today and the terrorists would still act as they do if there were caliphs and they acted peacefully because they wished to. Al Qaeda operates by murder, fear, and stupidity (as in great ignorance). This is not what Islam is capable of giving to the world, as it did with Baghdad in its original heyday before being sacked by the Mongols. People should look to the co-existence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Spain there was for a long time after the Middle Ages (I'm not actually sure of the dates myself). The cultures respected each other, shared, and people worshiped God without hurting anyone.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  29. Merv

    I say the moderate muslims have taken a stand against the extremists. The stand is that the moderates continue to move forward with day-to-day life and operate within their communities. People still go to their jobs, take care of their families, kids go to school, pay taxes, etc. If that isn't the biggest stand against extremism, then perhaps you need to define it as your own version of a stand instead of asserting your personal opinion as the absolute definition.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  30. Mo

    Hi, well with all respect to Mr Melhem, but Mr Melhem's words does not reflect all muslim impression about if Muslims like Obama or not because Muslims cannot judge him now, he has been only in post for less than 100 days, and muslims still did not see any actions from Obama towards the israeli-arab conflict, he said that he is an ally to israel and he will always be. So he is already have taken side in the conflict, i think US should be neutral and fair between arabs and israel and support both sides. So till now Obama's actions towards muslims and arab are still similar to Bush. Concerning Afghanstan, they are sending more troups, so were is peace in that country then? In Iraq, there will be a lot of troups even with the huge number of soldiers withdrawn. It does not matter if you have 200 000 vs 50000, in both cases the troups will be still there, the control will still be there. So i don't see Obama's actions and message are matching when he says he wants to be friends with the muslim world. Mr Melhem is very unrealistic and spoiled by his presence in washigton and just listening to what washigton is saying. Mr Melhem is actually disconnected from his environment and his words unfortunetly does not reflect in any measure what the muslims think about what is going on now.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  31. Da Professor

    No surprises here. The right-wing extremists are still whining about the last election, kissing the feet of Bush – Cheney, spending way too much time listening to the FOX Channel and their merry band of liars, and spouting out with their false accusations about Obama as a Muslim. What fools! Perhaps these extremists idiots will soon be goose stepping in a parade down main street?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  32. Roxanne

    I believe that most Americans have been to some extent brainwashed by the previous president and his administration into believing that Islam is our enemy. I agree with Mr. Melhem's assertion that President Obama is clearly defining our enemy as al Qaeda as opposed to all Islamic groups. During the last 7 years, Muslims in this country and abroad have been living under a stigma put there by the Bush administration to incite support for their actions in the middle east.

    I believe that people of all religions have extremists. I hope that President Obama will continue and succeed in his efforts to reach out to the Muslim world. While we may be divided on ideology, we should not be divided on our will to rid our cultures of extremism and any other fringe elements that threaten our survival.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  33. J. Abdelghani

    "now the president could look at Muslim leaders in the eye and say, I’ve done certain things that you wanted me to do, closing down Guantanamo, I’m getting out of Iraq. I sent a positive message to the Iranian people......I want you to deal with the problem that afflicts your society. Which is essentially a problem of governance of which you as Muslim leaders and Muslim elites and Muslim ruling classes are responsible for."
    Hmmm, I really wonder what the response of the muslim leaders and elites will be to being told by the American president to clean up THEIR governence problems in their own countries. I bet they just jump however high Obama tells them to now right?? Get real.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  34. Mike

    I continue to be confounded when Obama says about the same thing that Bush said. But Obama gets credit for it and Bush does not. Bush never talked down to Muslims and he never grouped them all together and called them all radical. Bush had two major targets. Saddam and al Qaeda.
    Thanks to Bush, Iraq has democracy.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  35. Ron,Romulus Mi

    I think the difference between Hamas and AL Queda is that Hamas
    has real greavance and are haveing trouble being heard by the
    west.Al Queda has no defined grevance but they are able to get
    a message of hate out to the world on a constant stream of
    media forms.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  36. Paul Reilly

    While I find Mr. Melhem's comments enlightening – the reference to the poll is laughable. Why would Americans trust any new Muslim ally as much as countries that have been allies for decades? Allies that have proven through wars and different leadership that at their fundamental core they have certain beliefs that are unwavering and consistent with America's? Bottom line – as elequent as Mr. Melhem dances around it – Americans need to see action from the PEOPLE of Islam when segments of their religion do horrible things – they react when a Koran gets ripped or a comic gets published, but are silent when children get blown up. It's the fundamental disconnect between citizens of the two worlds – and it has nothing to do with the leadership in these countries and everything to do with how we view each other and value each other. People of Islam can look at Americans and point to huge segments of the population that are sympathetic to their people, their suffering, and the violence that they live with. Americans never see the same from Islam.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  37. harry1

    Never Forget! Who are we apologizing to?! Let the muslim's prove to us that it is their religion these cowards use to kill innocent human beings and make a stand. They can be so critical, but as soon as the criticism is focused on them they go bersirk!!!!!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  38. frank ward

    This is a very smart move on Obama, part, engage people with different believes,now we in America have a lot to do also,their are pockets of haters here especially people who listen to and believe every word on the talk radio shows which are mostly geared towards the bush mentality, with time hopefully even these people will be engaged in intelligent conversation and be accepting of other peoples believs.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  39. Carol W.

    I believe that moderate Muslims should take more responsibility in convincing the United States and the rest of the world that not all Muslims are like the few who attacked us on 9/11.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  40. matt

    i would like to thank cnn for raising their journalism bar just a little bit here. many good points were made. it is so refreshing to have a trully intelligent president running this country. he is not perfect. but he is doing quite well with a very bad situation, and i think that is a true judge of character. obama is someone i can look up to and admire, and i belive this makes me a better citizen as well.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  41. James from Idaho

    Dimslie April 7th, 2009 1:03 pm ET

    No one ever doubted that Muslims would like Obama.

    Lee April 7th, 2009 1:04 pm ET

    Well I just feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that muslims like obama’s words. Birds of a feather……………..
    ___________________________________________

    Nice show of ignorance, guys. And is it really a bad thing that Muslims like him? The sarcasm is thick here. Mehlem makes some great points here, stresses education and accountability, and this is your response? Sad to know that there are STILL people in the U.S. who believe that President Obama is a "radical Muslim." Unreal. Thankfully the majority of the country seems to have grown up.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  42. Adam

    Please. There’s no difference between Hamas and Al Queda.

    -–

    The difference is that they are attacking Israel, not the United States and it is not our job, business or responsibility to police the world. That kind of attitude is exactly why the middle east has hated us for the past 20 years. There is years and years of tension between Israel and Hamas and it's not something that the US has any business meddling in. If Israel and Hamas need our help in resolving this issue, then they will ask for it. Otherwise, until they start pulling out nukes, I say we stay out of it. We've got enough problems.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  43. dave

    Bill the point of engageing moderate muslims is to get their help dealing with the extreme ones and avoid the extreme ones from recruiting more not to "make us feel good" or dont you think/read?? "typical stupidity from the left" granted leftists can be naive but come on! indeed goodbye to you and your simplistic genius opinions

    Bill, Bloominton IL April 7th, 2009 1:10 pm ET

    Typical stupidity from the left. Moderate Muslims are not the problem. Did moderate muslims attack us on 9/11? This country is at risk while this president talks to moderate muslims to make us feel good.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  44. Mike

    Well Obama has proven himself the lapdog of Muslims.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  45. Chris

    I think Muslims should be more concerned with their own extremists manipulating and destroying Islam than the US government or people of other religions. They are the ones who have done more harm to their religion than anyone else possibly could have dreamed of doing.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  46. Jamaal

    Muslim moderates have been taking a stand against and exposing the unIslamic nature of terrorism before and after the attacks of 9/11. To see this, all one need do is look at the public statements and visit the web sites of Islamic organizations in North America and overseas. If one limits their grasp of Islam and Musllims to cable and other news outlets, a lot will be lost, or rather, never realized. See what CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America and other groups have said consistently in their condemnation of terror and terrorist groups. It would also be edifying to see the published statements of the scholars of the salafi (traditionist) movement who have condemned, on religious and textual grounds, those groups and individuals who have attempted to evoke Islam to justify their homicidal crimes.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  47. todd

    nice article, very thoughtful. there is work to be done on both sides to bridge this gap

    April 7, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  48. Victoria

    Finally the world can see that many of us respect Muslims as much as we respect ourselves. Too often people with divisive means enter politics and people think that is how all of America/Britian,Austrailia is. We need desperately to get along, The world is falling apart, we are destroying our only home in the universe, we must share it together and respect each others differences rather than try to turn everyone into right wing Christians, God loves all his children. We don't want our children to inherit hell. Yes we can Obama!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  49. Wyatt

    Who cares what "moderate" Muslims think. They are not going to stand up against their whack job clerics. Besides, Obama is one of them no wonder they like him.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  50. Will

    He is speaking to those who are not the problem here.. Islamic fundamentalists are not going to cooperate with us or those who are cooperating with us.. By cooperating with us they put themselves at risk, those who cooperate with 'infidels' are going to be targeted by the Islamic fundamentalists the same that we are.. It seems to me that there is a very large dyscrepency in Islam today.. There are so many lawful, peaceful Muslims out there contributing in society, but it also seems that there are so many hellbent on destroying it.. I just do not think that the 'peaceful' Muslims taking a stand against the fundamentalists is going to stop the violence and the violent teachings that are brainwashing many of the World's youth..

    April 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  51. Max Vanguard

    I don't understand why everyone is trying to fool themselves into thinking that we're not at war with Islam. We are, plain and simple. Someone here asked, "...when will the moderate Muslims begin to take a stand against the Islamic extremists?" The answer is never. The moderates won't stand against the extremists because they agree with them in principle. They just don't offer themselves up as martyrs. Islam has one purpose: to perpetuate itself at any cost, no matter what. Read the writing on the wall. The sooner we realize that any Muslim is an enemy of the West, the sooner we come to "define" the enemy. Secular governments and liberty are contrary to everything Islam stands for. Islam will never tolerate our way of life, and will always attack it.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  52. Nadir

    I commend CNN for inviting compelling interviews that help us engage and learn other cultures and religions. Mr. Melhams comments were well articulated and encouraging about the future of US and Middle Eastern relations. However until Conservative news outlets engage academics such as Mr. Melhams, I feel that the the trust issues that exist between the US and Muslim countries will be countinue to be deeply divided.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  53. Jason B.

    A good article. It's nice to see our President reaching out to the Muslim world.

    To those that say moderate Muslims are not the problem. I totally agree. But, we've got to work to get the moderates working with us. We really alienated them before.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  54. SS

    Scott H, we weren't attacked by an entire religion, only members of a small radical faction. The best way to begin getting our point across (short of yet another unsuccessful and disastrous war) is to begin reaching out to moderates in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of each other's views. I'm a patriot to the core, but some of the comments made to this article, I think, are downright un-American. It's bullheaded comments like "birds of a feather" when discussing Obama and U.S.-Islam relations that is preventing progress and ultimately, doing nothing to help prevent a tragedy such as 9/11 from happening again. Obama's religion, Muslim or otherwise, is a nonissue. He can be whatever he wants to be, just like you and I. I'm not one to say "can't we all get along" for no reason but we should take ignorance out of the equation and have an educated discourse on what the next steps should be.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  55. Eric

    It's a war between Islamic extremists and Christian extremists; and everyone else has unfortunately been caught in the cross-fire.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  56. Sonia

    Im sure he is proud of how muslims treat women.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  57. mike

    Hamas attacking civilian centers–lets see, Israel killed over 1000 people during the Gaza invasion a few weeks back, and most of those killed were civilians. Lets see, Israel used phosphorus agents against civilians in the Gaza invasion, but Israel is not a terrorist country. Americans can be so deluded. Thank God that common sense won last November.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  58. pjp

    Of course, he's one of them!!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  59. Dave P

    How can he say the US will never be at war with Islam?? Does he plan on being the President of the US for the rest of his life?? He can only speak for his term as President. He may not even be President for a 2nd term. He should have worded his words differently.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  60. C

    #44 is no doubt more acceptable by moderate Muslims than #41 and #43 in comparison. #41 and #43 catered to moderate Christians.

    Now what about Christian extremists and Buddhist extremists?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  61. anser azim

    Kiran: . Please try to find out what has been said about islam and muslims in particular since 9/11 by the press, senators and different news channels. You will find hate, distrust speeches only. The positive thing happened only when Ms Campbell Brown and Mr Collin Powell spoke publicly about being Muslim american. That day was an Eid day for many Muslims in America and Muslims around the globe. This is good research topic for you to dig out all the hateful comments that have been passed since 9/11 by the press and news channels...Presidents
    speech is very positive and will bring peace in many parts of the world........

    April 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  62. BrianG, Sugar Land, TX

    Obama is a charming diplomat. However, Islamic culture will never fit with Western culture. It's very definition means "surrender".

    "Our way or the highway" mentality, with a "holy scripture" permitting (encouraging) death to non-believers.

    Until that tenant is erased from the Koran, there will never be a blending of cultures. Westerners will never live under a system like that, but we very well may die under a system like that.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  63. Mel

    Dan, it's hard to take a stand when your children have been hookwinked into the system. The moderate muslims have fled their countries to a better life (see the problems England is facing) and their children now have no identity which makes them ripe for muslim extremist recruitment.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  64. Amanda

    No one has ever said before that we are NOT at war with Islam. I guess everyone else just expected the world to think that we weren't without saying it and attacking Islamic countries.

    I think Bush put it out there that we WERE at war with Islam by attacking Islamic countries and never saying, I bear no ill will towards Ilams, I'm just going after the terrorist. No, instead we attack and say nothing about it.

    I'm glad we finally have someone with enough brain cells to actually SAY it.

    I don't agree with everything Obama does, but at least he can think!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  65. ADFX

    why do we care what the muslim world thinks of us?

    seriously: why do we 'care' what THEIR image is of US

    The moderate muslims do NOT speak against their terror. We get very little from islam (aside from some oil..and not even that much)

    their religion has DESTROYED the innovation of that entire area.

    What has islam invented? Seriously: people need to worry about what Europe, South America and RUSSIA think of us not inbred (as 50% of muslims in the mid east are) followers of a maladaptive system.

    WAKE UP

    April 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  66. greg / chicago

    Obama is spot on with his message. Al Qaeda hung the bait and George Bush took it and then some. Bin Laden wants perpetual warfare. That is his cause. That is his mission. Who better to deliver his never-ending jihad than a superpower with virtually unlimited resources. We cannot win a war on "terrorism" as such a war has no end point. There are no leaders to surrender unconditionally on the deck of an American warship. That said, it is time for the moderate Muslim world to rally for the cause of peace. For two decades they have been far too quiet, and I, for one, am over their Palastine vs. Israel soapbox. Both sides are guilty. And hatred and blame of the West for support of Israel is de-legitimized by the blind eye the moderate Muslim world consistently turns toward intolerant, anti-semitic murderers the world over. If they can protest a cartoon. They can certainly protest another so-called martyr blowing him or herself up next to a bus full of school children.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  67. Nataly

    Lovely. The Muslim community likes our president, that includes the extremists right? The extremists that curse our existence because we're infidels and want noting more than our destruction. Yea, great.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  68. Scott

    What did he say that Bush did not? Many times Bush talked about not being at war with Islam but with the extremist.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  69. Theo

    He's right. Bush clumped the entire religious group, and Obama is showing that he can distinguish between the groups of people within the religion.

    We can only hope that they end up on our side of the table, alienating the majority of the extremist sects.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  70. Henri

    Obama acts like he is still running for office. He just wants everyone to like us. In all those speeches he has not identified who the enemy is? If there is no enemy and all Muslims are as gentle as Jews, Christians, and Buddists then why are we in Iraq? The whole thing is a joke. He is acting like evil sects within Islam are a sore subject with "friends" and so he is not going to even broach the subject.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  71. JMS

    I, too, am humbled by the words spoken here. As an Arab-American, I find it intolerable to see the ignorance passed on between both sides. Education is the key here, not to obliterate religion but to bring people together through acceptance. I am surprised at the polls recently expressing the American sentiment on the Islamic world. As a citizen, I do my best to answer any honest/legitimate questions sent in my direction about our culture and religion but I do not tolerate anybody who claims that my religious beliefs advocates violence.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  72. Robert Smith

    The same can be said for America: when will Christian moderates take a firm stand against Christian extremists?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  73. Bubba

    Of course they liked it, he refused to fulfill his campaign promise to bring up the genocide of Armenians done by Turkey in WWI, how convenient. Plus I am sure the like the fact that he looks more like them then all the white men that have President before Mr. Obama, it isn't racist just normal human behavior, plus he was raised (partially) in Indonesia; while I don't think they believe he is "one of them" he is however much closer than any other president before him.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  74. Tom Miller

    I believe Americans, even if ignorant about Islam, would desist from negative comments about Muslims if Muslims would desist from supporting radical positions such as the destruction of Israel, cheering for terror bombings that kill innocent citizens, and threatening people who oppose radical Muslim activities. Let's face it, there is a loud and strident voice coming from Islam that threatens viewpoints that oppose their worldview. For this reason, police in some large European cities refuse to operate in Muslim neighborhoods. Fear and intimidation of this kind is not consistent with wanting Americans, or anyone else who is not Muslim, to let go of negative perceptions about Muslims. Why don't moderate Muslim voices condemn such extremism within their own faithful?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  75. Rhonda

    He called September 11, a "fine morning".

    April 7, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  76. Tito

    It's wonderful to hear someone else say that the "War on Terror" is impossible, since it's a war on a tactic. I've been saying that for years!

    April 7, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  77. EB

    Melhem's pseudo progressive speech is frightening. Hamas, Hezbollah,etc are terrorist organizations that have not only killed Israelis but have killed plenty of American/European civiliians. They are unequivocally terrorist organizations and are also targets in the war on terror. As long they maintain their current ideologies and their militant/terrorist actions. They will be viewed as such. Plus thes organizations are supported by Iran, which exports terrorism. Make no mistake this administration or the Israelis will act soon on Iran.... the nice sentiments and words of Obama only have so much power....

    April 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  78. Dave

    I agree with Dan Nelson's comment completely. When will moderate Muslims take a stand against extremist Muslims who kill each other in huge numbers all across the Middle East.

    The reason why Americans don't trust Muslims, is that there is no Muslim group who will come out staunchly against terrrorism, the 9/11 attacks and the mass murder of Muslims by other Muslims.

    And also come out against the ridiculous comments like "Israel must be wiped off the map". Why don't we hear from Turkey about ridiculous those statements are and how they don't represent their point of view?

    April 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  79. SS

    I agree with MWN. It's vital to repair ties with the Muslim world, not only present abroad but within our country as well. As a nation of many cultures, our tolerant image was tarnished by the past administration and it's very true that it will take a long time to repair. However, it's refreshing to see that President Obama is taking steps to reach out and reaffirm what our country was founded on, mutual respect and diplomacy.

    On the other side though, it's vital at this stage for a strong Muslim leader to emerge and begin the healing within the Muslim world. There are a lot of hurt feelings and for good reason. Hopefully we can see more steps toward a peaceful, stable relationship.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  80. Scott H

    I love how we get attacked by radical Islam..repeatedly, and feel the need to apologize for fighting back. How very U.N.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  81. still at large

    to Dan Nelson: nice post. excellent question.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  82. Ed

    I thought this piece was excellent. I agree that the ball in now in the Arab Court. I believe if America can start to see Arab leaders and arab communities take a stand against those radicals who are causing so much grief both aboard and in their own lands, that the preception will change, and maybe even starting to work together, to obtain peace.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  83. TRC

    I agree with Dan Nelson completely!! Some of the most outspoken people against the IRA, are the Irish themselves. Some of the most outspoken critics of Israel, are jews. When will the billions of muslims in the world stand and take their deep and meaningful culture back from the extremists. I would feel more sorry for the community as a whole, if there was a loud thundering within to stop the violence. There is a murmur once in awhile, but never a loud sound from the billions of muslins out there.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  84. MALI

    President Obama is doing a great job of reaching out to the muslim world and balancing the US priority of eliminating terrorists organizations such as AlQaeda and others in Pakistan.

    The damage the previous adminstration has done to the American image will take a long time to mend. Alas, we continue to receive the same sick messages from certain news media that air 'fixed news" in the US.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  85. steve

    Nice segment.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  86. Moshe Chaim

    "As much as we don’t like Hamas as a group that is pursuing certain policies that is not to the liking of the United States government..." Those policies being the destruction of Israel as official policy, and attacking civilian centers with rockets launched from within civilian centers in violation of international law. Please. There's no difference between Hamas and Al Queda.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  87. Bill, Bloominton IL

    Typical stupidity from the left. Moderate Muslims are not the problem. Did moderate muslims attack us on 9/11? This country is at risk while this president talks to moderate muslims to make us feel good.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  88. Mehmet

    Obama was absolutely fantastic throughout his trip in Turkey, and the Turkish people embraced this humble, intelligent, eloquent US president. As a Turkish Muslim living in the US I felt proud.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  89. David

    A positive step in the right direction...

    April 7, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  90. Taz

    I agree with MWN. Mr. Melheim was very eloquent in his responses

    April 7, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  91. sohel

    Should the U.S. trust Muslim allies as much as other allies?

    –> 51% yes and 49% No

    If you remove the jews vote then it will be 98% Yes and 2% No

    April 7, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  92. Ahmad

    uh, pretty sure bush said the exact same thing. in fact, he went out of his way to say it was only the extreme radical factions that attacked us that we were at war with. he said many times he respected islam, and that we were not at war with the people. guess you all forgot that, or weren't paying attention. how convenient.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  93. SED

    All of this is great "propaganda" until the day we are attacked again on our own soil. These same fools that are saying how great it is to "talk" with our enemies will be asking "why....why did this happen??? Who didn't do their job to protect us???" A very sad day indeed....

    April 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  94. JL

    Clearly, communication is helping everyone involved with US-Muslim relations. Presdient Obama is right on trac with early messages of dialog. That should be enouph, but for to many in this country (republicans) it won't be good enouph.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  95. Lee

    Well I just feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that muslims like obama's words. Birds of a feather.................

    April 7, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  96. Dimslie

    No one ever doubted that Muslims would like Obama.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  97. Awais

    I also agree that Obama has taken the right steps in reaching out to the Muslim world, especially the fact that he has actually proactively reached out through interviews and rhetoric in his speeches. As a Muslim-American myself, I feel more comfortable with Obama representing the US in front of Muslim nations much more than Bush.

    April 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  98. MWN

    I saw this segment on CNN this morning and wanted to comment that I thought it was excellent. I was very impressed with Mr. Melhem's comments. They were put simply, well presented, and powerful. I would recommend continuing to have him on the show. It was the highlight of the show in my view.

    April 7, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  99. Fred Robinson

    Kiran:

    All that happens from this point on will be far better than what has ocurred in the past. The previous administration did so much damage to America's image overseas. It will take two terms of positive actions to wipe out the last gang of idiots.

    Do you guys have donuts with your coffee?

    Fred

    April 7, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  100. Dan Nelson

    I think Obama has done well within the moderate Muslim community but then again when will the moderate Muslims begin to take a stand against the Islamic extremists?

    April 7, 2009 at 10:46 am |
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