In his recent Cairo speech, President Obama attempted to reach out to Muslim nations. Although I unquestionably support his extended-hand approach, many obstacles exist.
Over 20 countries encompass this outreach. That’s 20+ countries, with 20+ cultures – some more moderate than others in terms of their interpretations to the Quran, treatment of women, views of the West, and in their beliefs toward Jews and Christians; over 20+ economies, each being differently integrated into the world economy; some with democratic governance and others not; plus many other differences. In other words, one size doesn’t fit all.
I do say this not to condemn President Obama’s efforts, but to shine light on the enormity of the task at hand; let alone it takes two to tango.
Then there are we, the Americans with many cultural differences within us – liberals and conservatives, Northerners and Southerners, Protestants and Catholics, Democrats and Republicans; East Coast, West Coast, and heartland; evangelicals, fundamentalists, and mainstreamers, supporters of a 2-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and those opposed, and who knows how many more – let alone our knowledge of Islam or lack of: What do we know? What misconceptions do we have? What do Christians, Jews, and Muslims have in common? What is the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni?
This is an example of life known as the intersection of fear and hope. Fear focuses on our own survival based on the harsh reality of the present, thus freezing us in an anti-neighborly role. On the other hand, hope is a positive movement allowing growth by reaching out. Bottom line is which path would you take?
Let us remember, it’s not all on Islamic countries as understanding and respect is important to all – we Americans included – thus the paramount need for learning so we know how to act at the intersection of fear and hope.