President Barack Obama is a man who chooses his words carefully. When Hillary and Bill Clinton attacked him during the 2008 Democratic primaries, claiming his whole career had been built only on words, he fired back. He quoted the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln at Gettysburg, and Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial. Are these just words, he asked rhetorically. And what stirring rhetoric it was.
That’s why the media is doing us a disservice by not carefully analyzing the words that made up Obama’s speech at Cairo University. In reaching out to what he termed “the Muslim world,” and seeking a new beginning in U.S. relations with Islamic societies, Obama was at pains to tell his Muslim listeners of his own rich experience, how he had experienced Islam on three continents as a child.
The liberal press may have been too deep in its collective salaam before Obama, their Expected One, to notice the critically important turn of phrase Obama employed in Cairo. He did not say the Middle East was the region where Islam began. No, he would say nothing so pedestrian as that. Nor did he say that it was there, in the shadow of the pyramids where millions first received their inspiration from the man they revere as the prophet of God. Nothing so poetic.
No, what he said was he was now visiting the region “where Islam was first revealed.” Could an informed Christian say that? Christians believe that Jesus Christ is “the alpa and the omega,” that Jesus is Lord. If you say that Islam was revealed, you are saying that Jesus is not Lord, that there was someone or something necessary to complete what Jesus failed to complete. And that something is Islam.
That word revealed is packed with centuries of theological significance. Our dictionary defines it simply: “1 : to make known through divine inspiration.” It can also mean uncovered or made visible. But when you are speaking at a site you have chosen because of its centuries as a center of Islamic learning, you can hardly intend your words—especially words offered to a vast viewing audience for whom English is not their primary language—shall be understood in their secondary or even lesser meaning.