It was likewise sad that an American president felt he had to go to Cairo and tell Muslims that Islam has a history of tolerance: "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country."
It was as if the president had to persuade his audience that Islam has been or is, in essence, tolerant. Even President Obama's examples were not convincing.
Muslim-governed Andalusia in southern Spain, of which Cordoba was the capital city, ceased being tolerant (relative to Christian Europe at the time) by about 1,000. In 1011, there was a Muslim pogrom against the Jews of Cordoba. And even earlier, between A.D. 850 and 859, 50 Christians were beheaded in Cordoba for blasphemy against Islam. As for the Indonesia in which the young Barack Obama saw Christians worshiping freely, that country was almost as secular under Suharto as Turkey was under Ataturk. So, the question remains: Are there examples in the last 1,000 years of a religious Islamic regime governing a society that was tolerant of non-Muslims or dissenting Muslims? The president provided none.
Right after the Indonesia citation, the president added: "That is the spirit we need today," obviously implying that this spirit of religious tolerance is not present in the Muslim world today. That was quite a statement to make to hundreds of millions of Muslims.
Yet, despite many objectionable aspects of the president's speech, it was very important for someone of President Obama's stature to tell the Muslim world that there was a Holocaust, that anti-Semitism is evil, that Israel and America have an unbreakable bond, and that religious intolerance in the Muslim world is unacceptable. But for precisely those reasons his speech was so sad.
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