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Bridging the gap between the West & the Rest

Obama’s calm leadership style, his deliberative methods and his tight teamwork has winsome most of the commentators upon his 100 days of successful US presidency. Unlike others, Mr. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek has pointed some specialties on Obama who has read the country and the political moment correctly. He understands that America in 2009 is in a very different place now. Newsweek magazine has reported that today, America is more liberal than it was two decades ago. In a detailed study for the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, Ruy Teixeira, and John Halpin point out that 67 percent of Americans now think favorably of the term "progressive," a 25 point increase in five years, which suggested that Barrack Obama's success derives from his understanding of this shift—and his readiness to act on it.

In fact, shortly after his inauguration on Jan 20, Obama was choosing an Arab station, Al Arabiyya, to give his first formal TV interview, widely interpreted as a signal that he wanted to improve relations with the Arab and Muslim world. He also called for peace and dialogue with Islam in a speech to Turkey's parliament on his first presidential visit to the Muslim world in April. Furthermore, his desire to cease a deplorable policy disagreement between Iran, Syria as well as Cuba has shown a positive sign that a striking move of closing the gap between the west and the rest (especially Islam) is under the progress, perhaps. Even in this coming June, Obama is expected to deliver a much anticipated speech to the Muslim world in Egypt, seeking to repair ties that were severely damaged under his predecessor George W. Bush. 

Despite the remarkable sign, many Arab and Muslim nations are still anger by the reckless invasions of Afghanistan as well as Iraq, abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Bush’s reluctance to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace. Human rights group such as Amnesty International has stressed that Obama should address about his commitment to being fair on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and others human rights concerns in the Muslim world. If we look at the list of Muslim countries by their GDP per capita (from IMF, 2008), Malaysia ranked in the top ten above Turkey and Iran while Qatar was on the top rank among others even in the world. It followed by Brunei, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Libya.  

In term of leadership, Malaysia can play a role in bridging the West and Islam. However, recent political scuffle has put Malaysia in a skeptical condition. In today scenario of economic fidgety, both BN and PR should give their priority on harnessing economic growth while performing governance reform, especially on the new venture such as nurturing creative minds among rakyat through the appreciation of diversity and revamping environmental as well as energy policy by encouraging R&D. It is no point at all if the politicians keep on blaming among others. After all there are many things that can be done locally and internationally. Just ask ourselves, how we are going to spur the West-Islam bridging mission, if we by ourselves can be able to wholeheartedly accommodate the diversity of thinking among us?


By Mohd Izzuddin Syakir - Exco ABIM Johor
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