Saturday, June 6

A tale of 3 speeches

Obama gave a very stirring speech in Cairo talking about Islam, USA, Palestine and all that nice pap. Very nice speech but reading the responses, looks like the overwhelming reaction from the westerners was to fall more in love with Obama and want his kids. The underwhelming reaction from the Muslims was divided into three (1) you are confusing Arabs with Muslims; (2) you forgot that Muslims are not one monolithic bloc – for example he forgot about Indian Muslims and (3) talk is cheap, show me some action. Go on, read his speech, pretty stirring stuff. I quote some bits:

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that 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.

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. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

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: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings……

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.

But here’s another slightly older speech purportedly given by Napoleon when he invaded Egypt (its provenance is unclear, the first line itself refers to England which is confusing, it should be France, no? why on earth is he praising an English army? or was the lecture given by an Englishman). But the picture is clear.


I quote it in its entirety, not too long:

Soldiers, you are a wing of the army of England! You are masters of the modes of warfare appropriate to mountains, to plains, to sieges. Naval war remains to complete your experience.

The Roman legions whom you have sometimes imitated, but not as yet equaled, fought Carthage successively upon this sea and upon the plains of Zama. Victory never forsook them, because they were constantly brave, patient of fatigue, well disciplined, resolute. But, soldiers, Europe has her eyes upon you! You have great destinies to fulfil, battles to fight, fatigues to surmount!

Frenchmen, you are about to undertake a conquest of which the effects upon the civilization and commerce of the world are incalculable. The first city you are to meet was founded by Alexander.

Cadis, Sheiks, Imans, Chorbadgys, you will be told that I came to destroy your religion; do not believe it. Let your answer be that I come to reestablish your rights and punish your usurpers, and that I have more respect than the Mamelukes for your god, his prophet, and the Koran.

Tell your people that all men are equal before God. Wisdom, talent, and virtue make the only difference between them.

But, is there a fine country? It is appropriated by the Mamelukes. Is there a beautiful slave, a fine horse, a fine house? All this belongs to the Mamelukes. If Egypt be their farm, let them show the lease which God has given them of it! But God is just and merciful to the people. The Egyptians will be called to fill the public stations. Let the wisest, the most enlightened, the most virtuous govern, and the people will be happy.

You had formerly large cities, great canals, a flourishing commerce. What has ruined them all if not the avarice, the injustice, and the tyranny of the Mamelukes?

Cadis, Sheiks, Imans, Chorbadgys, tell the people that we, too, are true Mussulmans. Is it not we who demolished the pope, the great enemy of the Mussulmans? Are we not the friends of the grand seignior?

Thrice happy those who shall be found on our side! They will prosper in fortune and rank. Happy those who shall remain neutral! They will have time to know the result, and then will join us.

But woe, eternal woe, to those who take arms in favor of the Mamelukes and fight against us! There will be no hope for them; they will perish!

Sheiks, Ulemans, believers of Mohammed, make known to the people that those who have been enemies to me will find no refuge either in this world or the other. Is there a man so blind as not to see that Destiny itself directs my operations?

Do you see the similarities? Quite interesting, eh? more things change, more they remain the same.


Actually, on the same date, another speech was delivered in India by the President of India. Frankly, if you ask me, that speech is said more about stuff that is going to make more of a difference to more people than the Obama speech, but since the Indian speech was relating to boring old stuff like economics, poverty and stuff, it was ignored. Here are some quotes:

8. My Government is acutely conscious of the challenge of rising expectations. There would be ten broad areas of priority for my Government for the next five years.

• Internal security and preservation of communal harmony;

• Stepping up of economic growth in agriculture, manufacturing and services;

• Consolidation of the existing flagship programmes for employment, education, health, rural infrastructure, urban renewal and introduction of new flagship programmes for food security and skill development;

• Concerted action for the welfare of women, youth, children, other backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, the differently-abled and the elderly along with strengthened social protection;

• Governance reform;

• Creation and modernization of infrastructure and capacity addition in key sectors;

• Prudent fiscal management;

• Energy security and environment protection;

• Constructive and creative engagement with the world and

• Promotion of a culture of enterprise and innovation.

Pretty much basic stuff, eh? its this kind of sweating the small stuff which is more important than all the soaring oratory combined…But as they say, lets see how the cards turn and what actions are taken.

Best of luck to Napoleon Obama and Mrs. Patil

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