Nobel Prize is not too early to help Obama

By Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Commentary by
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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a few months into office, President Obama has won the Nobel Peace
Prize. Even the White House was stunned by the announcement. Two other
sitting presidents have won the prize. But Theodore Roosevelt had to
broker a peace agreement to end a war between Russia and Japan to get
his, and Woodrow Wilson had to create the League of Nations. 
got his for a vision of world peace. But it is a vision that has
captivated the world, even if it has not yet produced the desired
bestowing the award, the Nobel committee is saying the United States
again is the leader of the world and Obama holds the bully pulpit. The
award should be a catalyst that motivates other world leaders to help
committee also is endorsing the American people, who overcame centuries
of slavery and racism to fulfill the ideals of the Declaration of
Independence to elect the first African-American president. Martin
Luther King won a Nobel Peace Prize for his vision of an end to racial
discrimination. Obama almost sounded like Martin Luther King in his
speeches outlining his foreign agenda. He, too, talked about a dream –
to end terrorism, eliminate nuclear weapons, bring peace to the Middle
East, promote democracy and encourage economic development. He said:
Here’s my dream, I will do my part, but I need your help. The world –
and the Nobel committee – responded to that dream. 
his first day in office, Obama established an ambitious agenda to bring
affordable health care to all Americans while salvaging the nation’s
financial systems and stimulating the economy. 
he did not ignore international issues. He has transformed US foreign
policy. He committed the United States to end the proliferation of
nuclear weapons and even to ban them altogether. He pushed from Day One
for a Middle East peace agreement. He reached out to America’s
traditional enemies – to jaw-jaw rather war-war, as Winston Churchill
famously said. 
has caught the attention of people around the world who had come to
fear unilateral US military action. Obama’s speeches to the Muslim
world in Ankara and Cairo were truly historic. Never before had a US
president spoken directly to the Muslim people in the capital of an
Islamic country. 
displayed a sensitivity to Islam and its central role in Muslim
countries that no other president had acknowledged. And he shattered
the paradigm of a “Clash of Civilizations” – that Islamic countries and
the West were destined to constant warfare. 

have asked, where are the results? The Middle East is no closer to
peace. Iran continues to defy the US. The war in Afghanistan is
way too early yet. I can tell you from my travels around the Muslim
world in the last few months, even in Iran, I have been told that every
Muslim leader wants to work with President Obama. While they must be
constant to their own policies, they need to show their people that
they want to improve relations with the United States. That’s a major
Even Iran
sent its foreign minister to Washington. Anything that can be done to
resolve the conflict between Iran and the United States would have huge
repercussions in resolving the conflicts from Palestine, through Iraq
and Afghanistan to Pakistan. 
announcement comes just as Obama must decide what to do about
Afghanistan. The president is not rushing to add more troops. He
recognizes that a large part of General Stanley A. McChrystal’s
strategy calls for engaging the Afghans within their own culture and
religion to win their hearts and minds. Peace in Afghanistan can only
come this way. 
US government recognizes that even with the combined power of NATO it
cannot resolve all of these conflicts. My hopeful expectation is that
the United States will invite other Muslim leaders, who understand the
underlying cultural issues, to help in resolving these conflicts. 
choosing Obama for the Nobel Prize, the committee chose hope over
despair. They chose the ideals of the United States over cynicism. And
they chose to support a young, visionary leader at a crucial moment in
world history when so much can be gained or so much can be lost. 
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is
chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, an independent, non-partisan and
multi-national project that seeks to use religion to improve
Muslim-West relations. ( He is the author of
“What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right With America.”He wrote this
commentary for

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