After reading a transcript of Obama‘s speech in Cairo, I’ll admit that my reaction was mostly positive but tempered by a couple points. There were some very good messages of tolerance, shared values, and coexistence. But there was a good deal of focus on how believers in the three monotheistic traditions could come together – often leaving out the nontheistic community.
And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
So close – if not for three words I would love it. I certainly don’t share an aspiration to love a god, and yet I consider myself a member of humanity.
Or when Obama said:
Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations.
Not only does he frame it as an effort to bring together the monotheistic traditions, he uses King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue as an example. Does anybody besides me remember how offensive that initiative was? Here’s how King Abdullah characterized his goal:
“If God wills it, we will then meet with our brothers from other religions, including those of the Torah and the Gospel to come up with ways to safeguard humanity,” he added. The king, who is the guardian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, said the major faiths shared a desire to combat “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world”.
According to the official Saudi Press Agency King Abdullah said “I have noticed that the family system has weakened and that atheism has increased. That is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Koran, the Torah and the Bible. We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty and sincerity for our religions and humanity.”
That’s the example he gives?
I don’t mean to misrepresent the speech – there were passages on our shared ethical values that sounded downright humanistic. I would have loved it if Obama had taken the next step and explicitly mentioned nontheists as sharing in those values.
Should I just ignore the problematic passages? What did you think of the speech?