As Carrie Bradshaw might write in her "Sex and the City" column, when it comes to America's relationship with the Muslim world, do the actions of a beautiful woman speak louder than the words of a powerful man?
A year after President Barack Obama proposed a "new beginning" with the Islamic world, now comes Samantha Jones, the provocative and saucy vixen from "Sex and the City 2" who, during a visit to Abu Dhabi, throws wads of condoms at a crowd of men on their way to prayer and simulates oral sex on a hookah pipe.
Meanwhile, the first Muslim-American Miss USA, Rima Fakih, parades around in a bikini to win her crown and "South Park" pushes the envelope with an episode that asks why Muslims are so sensitive about depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
In short, America's cultural exports are making Obama's efforts at Muslim bridge-building a little more complicated. . .
Yet even as the White House has made some progress -- lifting travel bans on Muslim scholars such as Tariq Ramadan, phasing out hostile terms like "Islamic terrorism" and staging a recent entrepreneurship summit for Muslim businessmen -- it all has been overshadowed by a sense of disappointment, said Corey Saylor, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Obama's friendly phrases still carry more weight than Samantha's crude gestures, but if U.S. foreign policy remains largely unchanged and U.S. media keep exporting outdated or negative messages about Islam, Saylor added, it will take more than a few speeches to win over Muslims.
"We have to see more positive depictions -- or at least more balanced depictions -- of Muslims," he said, "but I don't see that changing anytime in the future." (More)