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ARAB AMERICAN WRITERS GROUP SYNDICATION
OP-ED, Distribution, Monday Nov. 10, 2008
Obama’s election can open new door for Middle East peace and improved relations
By Mohamed Hedi Triki — Barack Obama promised the American people to bring “change” with his election as president of the United States, but the anticipation for real change is greatest among the people in the Arab World.
The people of the Arab World have long felt left out by the policies pursued by past American presidents during the past decade but especially so in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
This desire for change has been mischaracterized in the West as being anti-American. Nothing can be further from the truth. The people of the Arab World admire the United States, long for the promises of freedom that are its foundation and hope to improve their relations in a world where justice prevails not just in America but in the Middle East, too.
The election of Barack Obama has not only created a new hope that the United States will not bring real change based on justice to the World, but it has created an opportunity, a doorway to improved relations and understanding between Arab countries and the United States.
This opportunity is not here because Obama is presumed Muslim, or that he has an Arab middle name, Hussein, or that he knows some Arab Americans that he worked with during his years after college.
Although these facts were used as instruments of criticism by his foes in the last election, for the Arab World, these are not the criteria we seek in a great leader.
To be a great leader, you don’t have to be Muslim. You don’t have to be Arab. Your middle name need not be Hussein. All you have to be is fair. All you have to be is just. All you have to is recognize that the Arab people are no different than the American people when it comes to seeking a better life and peace.
As I sat in Chicago watching the election results Nov. 4, I recognized Barack Obama not only won the election, he may have also won the hearts and minds of people throughout the Arab World. That includes in my country, Tunisia, where people believe that in his heart, Obama is a just and a fair man.
I know Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, and the Tunisian people are encouraged there will be better and stronger mutual relations with the American people because of Obama.
For far too long, countries of the Middle East have been at odds with the United States over foreign policy decisions involving not only Israel and Palestine, but also other Arab countries from Iraq to Egypt.
Much of this conflict has been driven by a misunderstanding of the Arab people and the inaccurate belief that Arabs support violence against American interests. In reality, the violent extremists are a minority who are outside of the Arab culture. But because of politics and regional conflicts, this minority of extremists have exploited the frustrations that dominate the majority of the Arab people. What Middle East peace, and what Barack Obama can provide, is a renewed belief among the people of the Arab World that the United States will understand our needs, our dedication to justice and our perspective on all issues including the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Barack Obama is not Arab, not Muslim and not an activist for Arab causes.
But Barack Obama is a man of peace, hope and justice who we in the Arab World believe has the power to do that which no other American president has achieved in many years: to win over the hearts and minds of the Arab people and usher in genuine peace in the Middle East. Peace not only in Palestine. Peace not only in Iraq. But peace throughout the Arab World.
We know this and that is why the people of the Arab World are waiting in anticipation for Barack Obama to do the right thing that is the corner stone of his heart.
(Mohamed Hedi Triki is a veteran journalist from Tunisia. He was the former editor-in-chief of al-Hurriya Newspaper and the former general manager of Tunisian-African News. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
[Editor’s Note: Distributed by the National Arab American Journalists Association and the Arab American Writers Group Syndicate, coordinator Ray Hanania, firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact the author Mohamed Hedi Triki directly, please call 312-391-8912 or email Omar Triki, email@example.com].
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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