Muslim Nations React to Obama Inaugural Speech


Many Muslim nations are welcoming Barack Obama as the new president of the United States - yet there are also expressions of caution over whether much will really change in U.S. relations with the Muslim world.  

Mr. Obama made a special point of addressing Muslims around the world in his inaugural speech Tuesday and reaction has been coming in.

In his inaugural address Tuesday President Obama offered a new relationship with the Muslim world.

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy," President Obama said.

With some exceptions on the fringes, most Muslims appear to have welcomed the new tone from President Obama.

Ayman Daraghmeh, a Hamas official in the Palestinian Legislative Council,is optimistic. 

"I could expect something better because he said that he will deal with the Muslim world, the Islamic world in a new way, Daraghmeh said."

In Iraq, the government expressed its hope to have the U.S. withdraw its troops even before the end of 2011 - the departure date agreed to by former President Bush.

"Iraqis were worried from the premature withdrawal of the troops, but with the vision which has been clarified from the new administration, as well as the improvement in the security situation in Iraq, the Iraqi government is willing," said Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman.

In Afghanistan, former Taliban official Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef denounced Mr. Obama's plan to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  Others in the country argue the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan will bring more insecurity.  

But some members of parliament are more optimistic about the intentions of the new American president.  

"Last night, Obama's speech was very crystal clear," said Shukria Barakzai, a member of the Afghan  parliament. He says that mutual understanding, mutual respect, this is what Muslims want.

Following President Obama's inauguration, there were also mixed feelings in Tehran.

The Iranian government says it is waiting to see what practical steps President Obama will take toward Tehran - which has been at odds with the United States over its nuclear program.  

But a Tehran resident was optimistic.

"I think it is the best opportunity for Iran to improve its relations with the U.S. because this absence of ties with America has imposed a pressure on us from all countries, and this way we can reduce the pressure," the man said.

In Indian Kashmir, some expect a different U.S. policy because there were reports Mr. Obama may appoint a special envoy to resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

"The foreign policy of the United States would be the same as earlier but would be a little different since they have come with a different agenda and a different background," says Khursheed-Ul-Islam, a political expert.

In Kenya, at the school named after President Obama, the sentiments were personal.

"Obama became something and we believe that he will inspire our students and that they will work hard," said Lamek Awinyo, who teaches at the school.  "And they will become something in the society."

President Obama made history Tuesday as the first African-American president to be inaugurated.  He is riding a wave of hope in the United States and in the rest of the world as he prepares to set out a new course in U.S. relations with Muslim nations.

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