Despite disappointment in Obama's arm's length approach during the campaign, the vast majority of Arab and Muslim American voters supported him on Election Day. They felt his domestic and foreign policies would be a vast improvement over his predecessor's. Like other Americans, they were hopeful. His recent televised interview on the Arabic satellite network, Al Arabiya, infused new life into that hope---hope that had been waning rapidly in the weeks leading up to the inauguration.
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President Barack Obama has moved quickly to follow up on his inaugural statement: "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." He appointed and sent his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to the region on an eight day trip. Then on January 28, on Al Arabiya, the prominent Arab satellite TV network, Obama addressed the Arab and Muslim worlds in his first televised interview from the White House.
The Bush administration has widely been assumed to have significantly favored evangelical Christian perspectives and organizations in its policies. A corollary of that assumption has been that regime change would return us to our natural secular condition. Preliminary evidence suggests that the first is indeed the case (although the changes had been initiated during the Clinton administration) and that the second is unlikely. [...]
Ten years ago today President Clinton signed the landmark International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), a law its supporters hoped would put religious freedom at the core of American foreign policy. During the ensuing decade IRF policies have produced admirable and encouraging results, including humanitarian successes and institutional first steps toward altering the secularist culture at the State Department. However, it cannot yet be said that religious freedom is anywhere near the center of U.S. foreign policy. The next administration should elevate and broaden IRF policy in order to serve both the humanitarian and the national security interests of the United States. [...]
Last week as I listened, along with many other Americans and others around the world, to President Bush's most recent effort to reassure us about the current economic meltdown I had a "Road to Damascus" moment. It happened as I heard Bush repeat the word "faith". [...]
The recent visit of Benedict XVI to the U.S. demonstrates once again the uncanny ability of the most influential popes to embody the prospects as well as highlight the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church in the world. The Pope's visit conversely afforded an opportunity for U.S. Catholics, other people of faith, and the media to project onto Benedict their hopes and fears regarding the Church's global role as a moral leader in public life. [...]
How far has the Catholic Church traveled in its almost 43 years as an advocate of religious freedom? Apparently, the journey has brought the Vatican to the brink of allying itself, however cautiously, with all believers whose search for the Truth of God has led them, or may be leading them, to endorse human dignity and human freedom as the basis for world order and cross-cultural, transnational peace.
"During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed..." The United States committed to "moral and religious considerations"? Considerations shared with a particular religious organization, the Roman Catholic Church? This was news, or seemed to be. [...]
Are international relations theorists about to awake from their long secular slumber and discover that the world has had, has, and always will have a religious dimension? There is clearly a growing interest in religion, much of it driven by its presumed association with various forms of collective violence. Yet so far international relations theorists have spent little time wondering how religion in global life might implicate their existing theories of international relations or how existing theories of international relations might help us better understand the shape, forms, and consequences of religion in world affairs. [...]