In an interview with John Allen published yesterday, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, Italy, offered a brief assessment of President Barack Obama’s June 4 speech to Muslims.
Cardinal Scola’s opinion is a highly informed one; he is the sponsor of the Oasis project that seeks to promote dialogue and understanding with the Muslim world and to support Christian minorities in predominantly Islamic societies.
Cardinal Scola suggests Obama glossed over the basic problems that exist in relations with Muslims. Here’s what he said to Allen:
I’m curious to hear from participants in the Oasis meeting what effect the words of the American president had on the populations of the Middle East, especially the Christian minorities. His speech seemed to me very political. It was extremely lucid in indicating the challenges that the United States must confront, decisive in suggesting certain changes in direction, and even audacious in favoring a greater role for regional actors. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the arguments offered in support of a ‘new beginning’ between Muslims and the United States are fragile, and some historical readings were distorted to suit the necessities of the moment. Obama was forced to pass over some of the points of greatest friction. It was an understandable choice from a tactical point of view, but it can’t hold up for very long.