A year ago, Palestinian medical student Wessam al-Ghoul in the U.K. thought Barack Obama would break new ground in bringing Middle East peace. Today, he says the Democratic presidential candidate is merely “the lesser of two evils.”
Al-Ghoul changed his mind after Obama toughened his rhetoric against Iran and said on June 4 that ''Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.'' Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their future capital.
''He has become virtually indistinguishable from any U.S. politician running for office,'' said al-Ghoul, 24. He added that presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, 71, is worse only because he would continue the foreign policies of President George W. Bush, whose war in Iraq, now in its sixth year, has made him unpopular in the Arab world.
Twelve percent of Americans think, wrongly, that Obama is a Muslim, according to a poll this month by the Pew Research Center. Obama, a Christian, spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, and his middle name is Hussein, ''handsome'' in Arabic.
Yet many Muslims around the world doubt the 46-year-old Illinois senator will advance their interests much and expect Obama to leave largely unchanged a U.S. foreign policy they perceive as unfairly tilted toward Israel.
Obama's comment on Jerusalem, in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was a “radical rupture with the Arab public,” said Habib Samarkandi, a professor at the University of Toulouse in France who edits a journal about North African culture. “We discovered our support was based on illusions rather than the reality of the person.'' (MORE)