Analyzing Obama's Muslim Outreach

By Caitlin Millat
|  Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010  |  Updated 5:00 AM PDT
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Analyzing Obama's Muslim Outreach

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WASHINGTON - APRIL 13: President Barack Obama takes a question during a press conference at the Washington Convention Center April 13, 2010 in Washington, DC. Delegates from forty-seven countries have gathered at the invitation of the U.S. government to talk about nuclear security and how to make dangerous materials less accessible to terrorists. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

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President Obama has in recent weeks begun a behind-the-scenes courtship of Muslim-American groups in the United States, working with organizations across the country to drum up support for his administration as it preps for a second-term battle.

Now that Obama's Muslim outreach has become public knowledge, critics are divided over whether the president's attempted alliances will work -- and what they'll mean for American opinion of his White House:

  • Obama's talk with Muslim groups is a positive sign for Arab-Americans accustomed to a lack of substantive change, Andrea Elliott writes for the The New York Times. Although Obama has yet to meet publicly with leaders in the Muslim community, his work behind the curtain has given rise to newfound appreciation from the group, Elliott writes. "His administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised," she writes.
  • The private coalitions with American Muslim groups may not be substantive steps toward policy change but will help to legitimately change the dialogue regarding the U.S. Muslim community, Carol E. Lee writes for Politico. Though debate has arisen across the aisle over whether Obama's much-hyped pro-Muslim promises have begun to take effect, there's no doubt the president has made moves to increase positive relations with the Arab-American community, Lee writes. "There's little question that he's made a pronounced shift in how the U.S. talks about the rest of the world," she writes, "and in a way that has opened him up to charges of being soft in the face of America's enemies."
     
  • Regardless of how effective Obama's talks with the Muslim community are, they're nothing new, Daniel Pipes blogs for the conservative Corner blog. Obama isn't the first to reach out to Arab-Americans -- George W. Bush did it, and better, Pipes writes, with "substantive steps" like adding a Koran to the White House library and initiating a Ramadan celebration. "Yes, Obama is bending over backwards to win Muslim opinion. But Bush did the same," Pipes writes.
     
  • A gesture from Obama deserves action from the Muslim community, says Fouad Al-Hashem, who writes for Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan. "The Arab world needs to take 10 steps toward Obama, if Obama takes one step," says Al-Hashem.

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