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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Obama plans major speech in Muslim world


How Obama addresses sensitive issues of democracy and human rights could help set the tone for efforts to distinguish himself from President Bush’s administration.

During the campaign, President-elect Obama put the goal of repairing America’s image abroad – and in particular in the Muslim world – at the top of his foreign-policy agenda. Mr. Obama began defining how he intends to do that this week by discussing his plans to deliver a major speech in an Islamic capital, perhaps within the first 100 days of his presidency.

Obama’s plan, still in the formative stages, immediately set off speculation over where the new American president would choose to deliver his message and what he would say.

He has to develop how he plans to support and encourage democracy and human rights,” says Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. “It is something Muslims in general care deeply about, but it was used and abused by the [Bush] administration.

But Mr. Masmoudi recommends either Istanbul, Turkey; or Casablanca, Morocco. Choosing Istanbul would symbolize a desire to bridge the economic, political, and perception gaps between the West and the Muslim world, he says.

As for how Obama might erase the taint of the Bush administration’s aim of spreading democracy in the Muslim world, Masmoudi says, “He has to say the US has no intention of imposing a model, but it does support the people’s aspirations for freedom and democracy.”

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