Greeted Barack Obama, the President of the United States, the world’s leading nation, while addressing more than one billion Muslims around the globe, during his Speech at the University of Cairo in June 2009



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A Postcolonial Overview of the "Cairo speech"
Introduction

Salamu Alaykumgreeted Barack Obama, the President of the United States, the world’s leading nation, while addressing more than one billion Muslims around the globe, during his Speech at the University of Cairo in June 2009. "I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world;"1 His words were followed by frequent applause from his audience.

The Cairo speech evoked numerous political reactions. World leaders tried to analyze United States' new position in the International arena; regarding the mediation process between Israelis and Palestinians, American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in relation to war against terror. Even intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, regarded the essence of the speech as political and practical and analyzed the President's perception of the Middle East, in terms of a political “act” rather than in terms of philosophy and ethics.

There is no doubt that the standpoint of a new president in the white house, at an era in which the United States makes great efforts to preserve its status as the world’s superpower and leader of war against terrorism, is more tangible than deconstructive observation of the hidden subtext behind the words. Nonetheless, the premise of this paper is that in Obama’s historical speech, beyond its apparent direct political meaning, lays inherent premises, which for years had been defining the world's


cultural balance of power. Specifically, these inherent premises define the cultural balance of power, between the USA – as the undoubted leader of the west and “Free World”, a Christian country in its nature - and the Middle East and Islam – which are different in their religious, cultural and political life perceptions. These inherent premises supposedly intensified after the Twin Towers attack, after which Islam was identified with terror.

In this paper, I will use postcolonial tools to analyze the world’s perceptions inherent in the Cairo Speech, which according to the Postcolonial theory, express the historic attitude of the west towards the east. In this paper I will also analyze another central factor- the speaker himself, Barack Obama, a complex character to measure with postcolonial tools: a black man, whose biography includes strong “black” elements as well as “white” ones, who rose to become head of the leading nation of the "white” world, as Postcolonial theories claim.

The main question that will be raised in this paper is whether Obama’s character and his American- Islamic reconciliation speech, indeed brings change, or rather returns to its initial cultural assumptions, which perpetuate the American and western superiority over the Middle East, not only from a political aspect but also from the cultural one. This paper will also question the relevance of Obama's "blackness" to his speech in Cairo. Walter Benjamin claimed that every cultural creation is a process of transcription of relationships in society.2 Following this claim, we will examine the speech of the first "black" American President in Cairo last year.

The analysis in this paper will be based on three main thinkers: Frantz Fanon, one of the most prominent Postcolonial thinkers, Edward Said who defined the term “Orientalism” and Homi Bhabha who established the “Hybridization” argument in relations between two cultural forces.

New beginning”– Obama’s Speech in Cairo

According to "Orientalism" methodology, whoever approaches the orient places himself in comparison to it, and thus determines his narrative. Each writer has previous knowledge upon which he relies. He uses language in an organized way to communicate messages. Information is compressed into standard patterns which reinforce existing perceptions3.

Obama aims to reformulate discourse structure between the United States and West, and the Islam and Arab world. In this framework he desires to address the main dispute issues, and demonstrate how compromises, based on common interests, can be reached. At the same time, Obama intends to change the prevailing power-based interaction, where one side applies military and economic power, while the other utilizes the weapons of terror and oil. Instead he aspires to implement interaction based on contradicting -ideas which pollinate each other. He relates to this speech as a first step to initiate dialog, not an obligating action plan. Obama’s speech at Cairo University on June 4th, 2009 was intended for the "other’s" ear, but an analysis of the writing templates and the selection of words, one can argue that the inherent concessions were oriental and postcolonial by nature, preserving the existing political and cultural power structures.


Choosing the Name and Place

The Cairo speech was titled “new beginning” and its purpose was to turn over a new leaf in relationship between the United States and Islam. Already at this point, the imbalance of the equation is noticeable. On one hand stands the United States – a Country, even though a world leader in the international arena, and one that is


considered the leader of the “free” world, still – just a Country. On the other hand, stands no particular country but an entire religion; one of the three most significant religions in the world. The background of this speech is the tension between the United States and numerous Arabic and Islamic countries. This tension exists due to American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan since events of September 11th 2001, tension from Iran’s nuclear expedited development, and due to known interests of the United States in the Middle East. Even so, alongside the USA and its struggles, stand various other countries that had sent their soldiers as well, to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who participate in taking sanction decisions against Iran. Obama allegedly does not allow himself to speak in other countries' name, nor on behalf of Christianity. still, as the head of the leading country of the West, he creates a form which empowers his culture, as he places it in the equation opposite to an entire religion, of approximately a billion and a half believers throughout the world.

Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, indicated that Egypt was elected as the location for the speech since it is “a country that in various aspects represents the heart of the Arab world. In addition, Egypt is considered as a main factor of the peace process in the Middle East, and also receives substantial military and economic assistance from the United States."4 When referring to the second part of Gibbs comments, it is evident that Egypt, even though located in the center of the Arab world, is in fact economically and politically dependent upon the United States. Thus raises the question: according to American perception- how significant is Egypt as "the heart of the Arab world", given its dependency upon the USA's superiority. Based on Gibbs comments, one can understand United States' start point, which perceives the Middle East as dependent on it, since the country that is "the heart of the Arab world" depends on it. Gibbs's comments suggest that the USA preconceives the

Middle East as dependent upon it, since the country at the heart of the Arab world is itself dependent upon it. This can indicate the oriental notion according to which, “the East” should be controlled either by research and development, or by military occupation, due to the need to characterize it and also due to the fear of it.5
Tradition vs. Progress

"I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress"6 This was the opening paragraph of the speech and to my analyze a completely Orientalistic expression. Obama chooses to explain the reason for the location selected for his speech – University of Cairo, but does not forget to collimate it to a much more important institution- in terms of the Islamic culture - Al-Azhar. Al-Azhar is nowadays considered the most important learning institution of Sunni Islam, in charge of scholastic Islam and Arabic language training, in order to become religious judges in their countries. The institution is considered adjudicator of all religious aspects for Sunni- Muslims, who constitute as majority of Muslims in the world. Obama's collimation compliments the importance of the university, but at the same time, creates a characteristic Orientalistic observation by identifying the Islamic institution with “tradition” rooted for thousands of years (despite its great importance to the Islamic life today), whereas the university, an institute more familiar to the

West, where in resemblance to "western" parts of the world, scientific -universal disciplines are taught, is introduced as "progress". The motif of progress vs. tradition reoccurs variously throughout the speech. Another example exists towards the end of the speech: "This change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities, those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith, But I also know that human progress cannot be denied"7

Obama introduces fear of progress as if it's the cause of identity lost, but claims it is inevitable. The perception of progress as opposed to tradition, expresses the western diachronic perception of time, which uses the timeline to construct social order. The mere perception of time and attempt to implement a timeline between past, present and future in relation to other cultures is a colonial perception, by which the West perceives the East as if it lives in the past, whereas the present (progress) is presented as better. The perception of time as presented by Obama suggests that there is a need to take advantage of time, and not waste it on fears from the present, meaning, an un-synchronous perception which does not grasp, that different cultures have different timelines, and human progress does not necessarily require movement from one place to another but can also be a circle movement.8
Choice of Words

In the continuation of its first paragraph Obama reads in his speech: "I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a



greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum".9

Obama symbolically utilized Arabic words, which mostly won the applause of his audience. Some words were mere rhetorical gestures, used to add some colure to the speech. Other words dealt with religious termination, and were intended to emphasize his profound understanding of the problems Muslims face. For example, when he discussed the difficulty Muslim charitable institutions faced in the United States, he chose to use the Arabic word for charity “Zakat”. Use of these words was not common in Obama's speech, but they were perfectly places to show that he is familiar with the material and feels comfortable with the language. Usage of concepts, expressions and words borrowed from the dominated party's language, constitutes an entire world of cultural meaning. On one hand it can be perceived as an expression of integration, but on the other hand it can also be perceived as an expression of superiority. The dominator demonstrates to the dominated, that he is familiar with its language and can speak it. 10

Fanon regards language as defining identity. "White" people talk to "black" people in a stuttered language assuming they can only stutter. On the other hand, "black" people attempt to excel at speaking the dominant language, as they consider it the means to social mobility. Fanon regarded language as a political and oppression tool, as violent as the military and the police, since the language contains an entire world of values.11

As far as speech style, Obama preserved his regular speech style yet was cautious with his words selection (for example, refraining from the word “terrorism”) Even though it is not clear how fluent in English were the listeners in the crowd, Obama preferred accuracy of words over crowd accessibility. We can confront this fact with his use of Arab words, as we analyze his rhetoric using Orientalistic tools.

As far as his vocabulary goes, we can say the key words in his speech are “on the other hand”. Obama’s message constantly transmitted openness and acceptance of the other, therefore he cautiously presented each standpoint from its two sides – the West and the Islam have had years of cooperation, but also of conflict. Iran is entitled to nuclear energy, but not to atomic weapon. Obama had adopted the vocabulary and narrative of the American liberal left party, where he had developed. He spoke without a blink of “the occupation” and of “the Palestinian aspiration for respect, opportunity and independence” and promised that America will not turn its back on the Palestinians. Obama called Hamas to “show responsibility” and recognize Israel's right of existence, and did not refer to it as a terrorist organization, but as a popular supported movement.

The word “respect”, another recurring motif, appeared in various contexts. Such examples are: "one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect ... 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". "I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world;" "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". "The rights of all God's children are respected."12

There is a paradox when referring to this motif. On one hand, I made an assumption that President Obama deliberately chose to stress this motif since he believed it was valuable and meaningful to his audience. This choice derives from an Orientalistic standpoint and is originated in the desire to speak in the audience’s language, in order

to clarify the message in the cultural context that the audience is familiar with. Nonetheless, this assumption regards the “honor” element as more important in the Arab world than in other places. Therefore I draw attention to the existence of this motif in the speech, but I am cautious to presume the reason for its existence, for fear of making a similar mistake to the one I am raising in my assumption.


Christianity vs. Islam

Following the analysis of the words selections and use of local language, Obama chooses to utilize in his speech many expressions from the Quran: "As the Holy Qoran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.' That is what I will try to do , to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart." "The Holy Qoran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind."13

Obama’s speech ends with quotations from sources relating to the three main religions: "The Holy Qoran tells us,'O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.' The Talmud tells us: 'The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.' The Holy Bible tells us, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' "14 As a matter of principle, one can attribute the same Orientalistic meaning to the use of quotations from the Quran as to Obama’s choice to open his

speech with the “Salamu Alaykum” greeting, but at the same time one should pay attention to the rooted Orientalistic attitude of Christianity towards Islam. Christians faced difficulties understanding Islam since they assumed that Muhammad meant to the Islam the same as Jesus meant for Christianity and therefore they even described him as an impostor. Islam was not presented in itself but rather represented to the Christians during the middle Ages. Every Christian representation of Muhammad was created to serve an internal western need –he was perceived as an impostor, reckless, homosexual, a devious atheist and his mere mimicry symbolizes that Jesus is the great source everyone should follow.15 It is visible that the appearing quotations from the Quran are indeed taken from the Quran but express values valid also in Christianity and in Judaism. This is emphasized in the quotation finalizing the speech in which Talmudic and New Testament cited quotation, deal with the same issue and written in a similar spirit. Thus, in the end, universality can on one hand eliminate the need for distinction between races and religions but on the other hand, can annul the need for uniqueness of one religion over another. Therefore, one can infer that by attributing to the Quran the same universal values, Obama aims to justify his true moral values and his superiority over his audience.


Colonialism

Already at the second paragraph of his speech Obama directly refers to the colonial period: "We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world, tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many



Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Isla" 16

Apparently one can interpret the direct reference to colonialism in such an early stage of the speech as a historic apology for the consequences of the direct occupation era.

That implies disregarding the continuance of the control existing today in less direct means. One can see how structuring strategic relationship between the West and the East still exist in the apologetic tone. On one hand, there is recognition that the aspirations of the subordinate countries are not taken into consideration but on the other hand, there lays another comparison between the Western modernization and globalization as opposed to the Islam that is still considered “traditional” and is immediately positioned as the opposite of modernization. As Said claims, the Orient investigators focused in emphasizing the differences between the familiar Western to the foreign. The strong culture can penetrate the mysterious Eastern in order to learn how to deal with it, and by that it gives it form and meaning. The result is a polarization of the perception – the Oriental becomes even more Oriental and the Western becomes even more Western and creates categorization in thought.17
Many times throughout the speech Obama refers to the difference between the West and the East in order to find the common ground: "So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity..."."Recognizing our common humanity is only the
beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared...". "For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared." 18

On the surface it seems like a call to eliminate the subordination but at the same time, towards the end of his speech, it is clear to which common denominator Obama refers to when he speaks of the road to such closeness: "We will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo". "On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia"19

The United States, as a powerful country politically and culturally, creates cultural socialization for those students and teenagers who are educated and exposed to the American perception. The desire to find the common denominator creates a

representation as if there is a place where the “West” and the “East” will meet in the middle. It ignores the fact that in this globalization age where the western cultural superiority is kept, the definition of a relationship of similarities rather than differences will be similar to the western values promoted and force to begin with. Even Homi Bhabha that called for "Hybridism" – such that the margins can move and become the center – recognized that this concept may turn out as weakening and not necessarily strengthening from a political standpoint.20

It is most likely that an adolescent from Cairo will have to learn to speak English in order to speak to another adolescent from Kansas and that their topics for conversation will be closer to the cultural world of the adolescent from Kansas than of the one from Cairo. The heroes from the movies and TV series, pop and sport stars mostly arrive from the West. Even the internet by which the adolescents communicate and the technical information required, enable the dominant culture to propagate its messages and to culturally control various places.

At some point in his speech, Obama makes a comparison to other type of colonialism, one that is closer to his and America’s history. He turns to the Palestinians and offers them to conduct their struggle without violence and compares it to the struggle of the black slaves in the United States and in South Africa. According to Obama, the Palestinians’ struggle for national liberation is justified and it reminds him of the renouncement of the colonialism. In this rhetoric that compares the Palestinians to the black people there is recognition of Ela Shojat’s theory that sees the State of Israel as a colonial branch of the West that was established by expulsion of the local population, the Palestinians, from their land and from their rights.21

Fanon’s criticism of the local bourgeoisie of the "black" people who cooperated with the "white" people and in that way preserved the colonial status, is also reflected here.22

Another issue that must be taken into account is the comparison that Obama creates in advance in his speech, in order to prevent anyone from accusing him of hidden colonialism: "But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known" 23

Obama creates a comparison between the stereotype of the Islam in the West and the stereotype of United States in Islam, but does not forget to shatter this comparison as if we are dealing with equal power forces. By using the word “progress” he reminds us who is the superior and who is the one responsible for the progress in the world.

To conclude this section, I will draw your attention to another sentence from the speech: "Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life." 24 The hidden assumption here is that the “better life” is as it is perceived by the United States. It presumes to determine what is considered good and what is not and to promote everyone to what it believes to be good.


The Perception of the State and Society

Let’s mention that Obama’s era in the White House arrives after eight years of Neo-Conservative Republican leadership that aimed to propagate democratic and liberal values around the world. Obama’s platform supposedly oppose the Neo-Conservatism but part of his need for real politics in his speech derives from American steps that were taken by his predecessor in the name of democracy and liberalism. His first reference to this issue appears in the middle in his speech: "Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future, and to leave Iraq to Iraqis... Iraq's sovereignty is its own... That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government…" "I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other...That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things... you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy". 25

On one hand Obama obligated himself to leave Iraq to the Iraqis and on the other hand conditions it, in an implied form, in the existence of a democratic government.

He claims that no other country can impose a certain government structure on another’s but he is obliged only to democratic governments. America does not pretend to know what is best for others but specifies a list of liberal values that are universally desired by all people in all the countries in the world. In addition, he succeeds in defining what a real democracy is.

Said claimed that the entire political examination of the Orient by the West is based on Western notion, a factor that makes the empirical logic and reality to a bundle of desires. The assumption is that knowledge is derived from a certain political charge to examine the other with superiority.26 It is proper to mention Fanon in this context, who claimed that the "White" culture presents itself as progressive and universal but needs a mask to hide the power struggle between the "White" and the "Black". While examining the American history and the citizenship discourse in this federation, he presents himself as a liberator, liberal and democratic but completely ignores with historic manipulation in disguise, the immoral acts that he has done against the other.27
Subsequently, Obama raises the issue of women’s rights, the sixths topic in his speech, one of the last ones in the order of his speech. One can appreciate the raising of the point of women rights, in a speech in which it is not necessary. At the same time, one can wonder about the implication of women’s status derived from the order in which this issue was raised in the speech. There is a very active discussion about women’s permissible attire in the Arab world today, especially due to the prohibition

of private attire of the Burqas and Hijabs in European countries such as France and Switzerland. This prohibition raises a lot of questions regarding the liberal nature of those countries but clarifies the differences between the Muslims and the others. Seemingly, Obama refers to this subject from a standpoint that enables a full choice for Muslim women to determine what to wear: "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... I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous... Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons... I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice." 28

Fanon claims that the veil is a translation of the new local nationalism that causes, in its most absurd way, to fall in love with the exterior characteristics and adopt them as exotic. This is the aspiration to be "black, not like the rest of the others, but an actual black, a black animal as perceived by the white person, to return to your own people means becoming an Arab and as native as can be". But who sets the criteria as to how a native looks like? Again it is the West, the colonialist.29 Spivak claims that when the West controls the East and is interested in changing specific Eastern customs which hurt the heart of the Western consensus (such as women’s circumcision,

murders of widowers, etc.) we need to treat the disease, not the syndrome. That is, not to impose abolishment of the phenomenon but to act by means of empowerment of

the injured, so that they can deal with the phenomenon. Likewise, when a subordinate speaks for himself it is better than the ruler imposes on him a process. The essence is not important in this case – coercion is coercion. The mediation by which the ruler speaks on behalf of the subordinate, even in the case of a necessary intervention, causes subordinate silence (and clears the ruler’s conscience) and by that, in fact, mediation is created empowering the ruler.30
The Speaker’s Personality

At a very early stage (at the second page of the speech) Obama uses his Hybridist character as an example and as a rhetoric approval to the truthfulness of his intentions and his opinions. Throughout his entire speech he goes back to his biography and refers to the Islamic part of his biography and to him being "Black": "Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith... So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't... As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam, at places like Al-Azhar University, that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and



Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of Algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed..."31

Obama clarifies the contribution made by the Islam, from his own experience, to the revival of Europe, of science and of medicine – in other words, to the values that the West sanctifies and to the “whitest” continent in the world. According to my understanding, Obama comprehends that his Hybridist character might bring closer the “Black” Orient to the “White” West. He uses his skin color and his "black" past as a means to create solidarity (even if he is on top of the “white” world and his character is not typically “black”). Even so, from the moment that he uses his “blackness”, it is clear that he maintains his dichotomy in his diagnosis and that it is obvious to him that he stands in front of a “black” audience that needs to be reminded by rhetoric means of the “blackness” of the speaker. In fact, in that way, the postulation of “white” and “black” is maintained in his perception.

The postcolonial argument is that "black" and "white" are unessential. If we analyze it, we can observe that in every place and in any situation exist part of the “black” and part of the “white”. Therefore, instilling these concepts and creating this binary in itself constructs power relations. Obama also demonstrates from his own personal experience as a “Black” person that one can achieve significant "White" achievements. He stands as “Black” in the top of the “White” world and he recognizes the scientific contribution of the Islam to the “White” culture. That is – if he made it – so can his audience. The conclusion is that the white superiority perception declares to the black of his weakness.

Summary

The speech in Cairo attempted to blur the differences and crack the boundaries between the United States and Islam. In the hall, the audience applauded Obama and affirmed “we love you”, this reaction illustrates the extent of the expectation and the hopes the audience have from the first "black" President of the United States. Even so, the media analysis of the reactions to the speech indicates that the Arab world doubted Obama’s messages. The Arab world does not forget that beyond words that deal with culture, society and spirit, political and economic interests exist. Once we neutralize the global political interests raised in the Cairo speech, we can observe it in a Post colonialist and deconstructive approach in order to analyze the strategic relationships inherent in it. We can see that in spite of the speech’s name “new beginning”, the speech lays out old and familiar premises of cultural superiority and an interest to maintain it instead of changing and blurring boundaries.



In a personal note, I would like to restrict this assertion of mine, that is derived from a basis of Post colonialist analysis and disregard the complexity of the relations within the Islamic world, within the Middle East and within the United States and the American interests to maintain its power in the global arena. This paper aims to point out those inherent assumptions of superiority in order to draw our attention to what stands behind the rhetoric of change.
* This was a brief of a 12,000 words dissertation which also included: theoretical introduction and discussion of the used theories, a wide analysis of president Obama's character according to Postcolonial point of view, a long description of Arabic intellectuals and media's responds to the speech and a chapter of criticism about the theories and analysis. The original text leaned on more than twenty different sources and references.

1 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.


2 Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age Of mechanical Reproduction" in Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt ed. Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968



3 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Pantheon, and London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

4 Office of the Press Secretary (2009-05-08). Briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

5 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Pantheon, and London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.


6 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.


7 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

8 Bhabha Homi, "Disemenation:Time,Narrative and the Margins of the Modern Nation". In: Homi Bhabha, The location of culture, London, Routledge,1994.


9 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

10 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Pantheon, and London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.


11 Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask, New York, Grove press, 1967.


12 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.


13 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

14 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.



15 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Pantheon, and London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.


16 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

17 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Pantheon, and London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.


18 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

19 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

20  Yhouda Shenhav, " The hybridization and purification, Orientalism as a discourse with Wide margins" on Theory and critics, Vol.26. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the Vanleer institute, 2005.


21 Ella Shohat, Forbidden reminiscences. Tel Aviv, Bimat kedem, 2001.


22 Franz Fanon, The wretched of the Earth, New York, grove weidenfeld, 1963.


23 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

24 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.


25 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

26 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Pantheon, and London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.


27 Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask, New York, Grove press, 1967.



28 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.

29 Franz Fanon, The wretched of the Earth, New York, grove weidenfeld, 1963.


30 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,"Can the Subaltern Speak?", in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg eds., Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1988.


31 Barack Obama, A new beginning, Cairo Egypt, June 42009.



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