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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Haroon Siddiqui: Obama lays out path for peace

It was more of a landmark speech than the one he gave last year on race. That one saved his presidential campaign. This one might just spell the end of the post-9/11 "clash of civilizations."

More than tackling the toughest geopolitical issues of the day – Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, anti-Semitism, etc. – Obama's greatest accomplishment was cultural.

Muslims – here in North America and Europe, and there in Muslim lands – will be relieved. Islamophobes, of whom we have our share, will not be pleased.

He defended the hijab, but from the point of view of a liberal democracy. "Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion ... 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."

Without naming France, which banned the hijab in schools, or those on both the right and the left, who mock the hijab, he said:

"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 can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism." And, "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal."

He could've been quoting from Quebec's Taylor-Bouchard commission report.


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