Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Humble yet historic

Whenever President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama delivers a moving speech to trigger expectations, one thinks afterwards: "What’s new and unknown in it?" When he addressed tens of thousands in the cold weather following the inauguration on Jan. 20 in front of the U.S. Congress, a similar thought had occurred.

Eventually, many decided that Obama delivered a "historic" speech. A similar situation occurred when he addressed the Turkish Parliament on Apr. 6.

Everyone was preoccupied with the former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s moving speech in the Turkish Parliament in 1999. But no one remembered former U.S. President George W. Bush’s speech in the garden of Galatasaray University in 2005, with the Ortaköy Mosque and the Bosphorus bridging two continents in the background.

Bush’s speech was a carbon copy of Clinton’s. Yet Obama’s address was compared to Clinton’s. Perceptions were different. When one reads them again, there could be people who think Clinton’s was a historic one too.

The first African-American president of the United States delivered another speech the other day in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. There are just a few speeches as important as this one. During Obama’s presidential election campaigns he had promised to give a speech in a "Muslim capital" and "send a critical message to the Muslim world" if he was elected. Thus, he fulfilled this promise in Cairo the other day.

How was it?

So long as Obama is the speaker and the text is good and he is a good orator, the speech had no chance but to be a good one.

Was it historic?

We will see in the future. But without a doubt, since Obama was delivering a speech concentrated on "U.S.- Islam," it was a significant address.

***

I think the most beautiful part of this "assertive" speech is the down-to-earth moments and remarks.

"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings," said Obama, he continued: "I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight.

No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground..."

After such a humble emphasis that we are not accustomed to hearing from a "leader of the only superpower," Obama referred to the Koranic verse "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." And he said "That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can..."

"Humility" in this respect penetrated his entire speech. Even if there is no other reason, I think, this is a profound, quite satisfactory because he was an "American President" and a "philosophic" speech as it is expected from him.

***

I believe the following paragraphs will make the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan happy. He is the co-chair of the "Alliance of Civilizations" which Obama referred to during his speech: "...freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."

And this part:

"...Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."

It is possible to think that "traditional laics" of Turkey - come on let’s not say Jakobin laics here - will not be pleased by Obama’s approach. Likewise, some fanatical Muslims will be disturbed by the sections in which he put special emphasis on gender equality and "women rights". One of the most striking parts of Obama’s speech was the "emphasis on democracy" which will give goose bumps to the regimes in Muslim countries, including Egypt, that seriously lack democracy.

He continued:

"Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people."

I am pushing political aspects of the speech. The most striking parts were his claims of "global civilization" starting from being "humble" and the sine quo non "place of Islam and Muslims" in this.

What else can make this speech more "important" and perhaps "historic"? African-American U.S. President Obama continues to be a "chance" for the world.
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