Listening to President Obama’s historic speech in Cairo on June 4, I had to conclude that he would go down in the annals of mankind as one of the greatest men ever born, a mahatma, a great soul.

He has his weaknesses, shortcomings and failings. He may not be in a better position than any of the US Presidents preceding him in building a strong economic foundation for his nation.

For many, many years to come he and his nation may still be at the mercy of Federal Reserve System that controls the US Economy.

He may not be able to free his countrymen and women from the clutches of the rotten system. The Federal Reserve machine may continue to run the country and affect the entire world.

But, he may still be remembered as a world-class statesman, if he is able to translate his words into

Let us begin with a very interesting question posted by someone on an online media forum as to why Obama’s choice for Egypt and not other predominantly Muslim nations, especially ones that have adopted democracy like Indonesia.

So, the question is: “Why choose Egypt to deliver a speech purportedly addressed to the ‘Muslim World?’”

This question can actually be easily answered if we carefully listen to President Obama’s speech.

He avoided the term “Muslim world” and used “Muslim majority countries” and “communities” instead.

As emphasized by Ed Hussain and his colleques at the Quilliam Foundation, “There is no monolithic ‘Muslim community’ nor is there a singular homogenous entity known as ‘the Muslim world’, rather there are diverse and distinctive Muslim communities.”

President Obama seems to recognize this fact. So, choosing Egypt as the venue for his historic speech was understandable. He was actually addressing specific communities in and around Egypt.

By recognizing the fact that we all live in one and the same world, and that we are not living in distinct and separate Muslim or Christian or Hindu or Buddhist worlds, President Obama identified himself as a world citizen.

This is remarkable. And, if we understand this point clearly, then his speech takes upon a new
color altogether, the color of hu-manity, humanness, and human feelings.

He began his speech with a greeting in Arabic – commendable. Act as Romans in Rome; the audience cheered him. Alas, in Indonesia even this could be a problem.

As pointed out by Endy M. Bayuni (The Jakarta Post, March 13, 2009): “Some years ago, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) came out with a fatwa that said Muslims must not respond to the greeting assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) when expressed by non-Muslims.

The MUI claimed that the expression is holy, sacred and specifically Islamic, and therefore could only be uttered by Muslims.

“Although non-binding, many Muslims in Indonesia have heeded the fatwa.

At a recent neighborhood gathering where I live, the chief of the neighboring community, a Christian, opened his remarks with assalamualaikum in respect of the majority Muslim audience. Few people in the room responded. It was not a chorus that one would have heard if a Muslim had said it.”

I have the experience of doing business with Arabs in Saudi and elsewhere and we always exchanged greetings in the Arabic.

No problem whatsoever; but, not here in Indonesia. This clearly proves the diversity recognized by President Obama.

This alone, “the recognition of diversity” and the need to not impose our belief system upon others can be used as the foundation for building peace and harmony.  President Obama recognized this fact and therefore, even when speaking about democracy he said: “… system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”

Yet, he also recognized the basic human rights and values, including equality and justice for all.  He made his belief that all people yearn for things like “the ability to speak” their mind and have
a say in how they are “governed” very clear.

This, indeed, is a real issue.  Human beings are essentially free souls, and they cannot be enslaved by any doctrine, dogma or authoritarian monarchy system of governance.

The writer is a spiritual activist, author of more than 120 books (

Anand Krishna ,  Jakarta   |  Thu, 06/11/2009 9:46 AM  |  Opinion