As expected, US President Barack Obama's speech was received with different and contradicting reactions in the Egyptian blogosphere. While many praised his eloquence, charisma, intelligence and awareness of Arab and Islamic history, more believed it was just the same talk they had heard from other presidents but in a better wrapping. Also, they almost all agreed they are waiting for “action” to prove the supposed “good intentions.”
The first optimistic opinion came from Ahmed, who said how happy he is with Obama's gesture of approaching the Islamic world:
Another blogger, Ahmed Shokier, analyzed Obama's speech, then advised his readers that Obama is neither Muslims’ grand Imam nor a Muslim himself to have high expectations of him. He also said that the speech wasn't targeted towards Muslims only, but was followed by American voters, Israelis and non-Muslims as well.
Shokeir‘s other observations included:
رابعاً : لن يأتي الرجل ليقدم لنا الحلول والمساعدات ويرحل ، فهو ليس بابا نويل ولا روبين هود ، فالعلاقة متبادلة أن تأخذ وتعطي أن تمنح وتهب
خامساً : نحن أمة إستهلاكية مفككة وليس لها أي تأثير ولا ثقل دولي لا في مجال علمي أو تكنولوجي أو عسكري أو إقتصادي
Fourth, this man did not come to present us with solutions and aid and then leave. He isn't Santa Claus or Robin Hood. Relationships are mutual and there is give and take.
Fifth, we are a fragmented society which consumes goods only. We have no international impact or influence. Nor do we have any scientific, technological, military or economic power.
In reply to Shokier‘s post, Desert Cat offered a different opinion:
The same comment by Desert Cat was seconded by another female blogger, Fattractive Egyptian woman, who did not appreciate the preparations taken by the government for the visit:
Like many people, I wasn’t exactly on top of the world when Obama chose Egypt to speak from. Oh, of course, prestige, we’re the best country in the world, blah blah, but what about all the abuses and less-than-democratic procedures we have here?
She then added a comic by Sherif Arafa, an Egyptian writer, about how the whole Cairo cleanness is going to end as soon as Obama takes off his plan:
After Obama’s Visit (Upper left hand corner and clockwise):
1) Return [the palm] tree to the storage area.
2) Of course the exams get postponed for the guests, do you think we’re at Harvard?
3) The governor left?
4) I saw someone practicing politics in the university sir, his name is Obama!
5) We must return everything to it’s place.
Adel, a 23-year-old blogger, took a break from his studies for the final exam to follow the speech. Like many others, including Blue Stone [Ar], Mahmoud25x [Ar], Nawara Negm [Ar], GVO author Marwa Rakha -who thought the magic of the speech lied in Obama's charming smile- and Doaa [Ar], he believed Obama was trying to flirt with and please all parties, and that his talk will not lead to any change. He Quoting remarks:
Fattractive Egyptian woman continued in her excellent post:
Oh, he said all the right things. He quoted verses from the Qur’an. He said al-salamu Alaykum. He said Islam contributed a lot to western civilization. He proudly said he had Muslim roots. […]
The rhetoric was beautiful. So beautiful that many people missed—or chose to ignore—the fact that nothing much has changed. […] US policy has remained the same. America’s interests are still number one, and that is to be expected.
On a different note, while Zeinobia compared Obama to the late John F Kennedy, the Arabist compared his visit to Nixon's back in 1975; others – like Egyptian citizen, went a step further and compared his speech to that of the late Egyptian president Anwar El Sadat in the Israeli Knesset in 1977, before the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. For them, both of the two presidents were calling for peace.
Egyptian Citizen published videos for both speeches, then commented:
فهل من مجيب؟
يهمني الفعل مش كلام
نفسنا نعيش من غير حروب و دمار و ارهاب
امتى نعيش في سلام عادل ؟
stop war and live in peace
الخطاب دة فكرني بالسادات الله يرحمة
فعلاً كان رجل لة روئية و نظرة للمستقبل
I care for what’s to be done, not said. We want to live without wars, destruction or terrorism.
When will we live in just peace?
Stop war and live in peace.
This speech reminded me of Sadat (God rest his soul in peace)
He was a man of vision, and an insight for the future.
Another blogger, Ha'er fi donia Allah, tackled the topic from a different perspective. He was worried about the health condition of Egyptian president Mubarak, because he didn't receive Obama from the airport:
Fattractive Egyptian woman, concluded her post with a glimpse of optimism:
So that’s my two cents. The question remains, is Obama really and truly sincere in his words? Or is he, as this editorial puts it, simply another Napoleon, a man who “appropriated Islam in order to advance [his] own material interests at the expense of local populations?”
But even though I’m a cynical person, that doesn’t mean I’m still not hopeful. We’ll have to wait and see, as everyone is saying, if Obama can walk the talk. Intentions matter, but without actions, they don’t mean squat.