An Arab Perspective

Posted by Katherine | February 28, 2008 – 3:07 pm
At Brookings Institution’s US-Islamic World Forum
At the US-Islamic World Form [josholalia / Flickr]

The blogger Abu Aardvark — aka Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert and political-science professor at George Washington University — was recently at the Brookings Institution’s US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He reports that the attention paid to Iraq paled in comparison to that focused on the US presidential campaign:

The US elections absolutely dominated the conversations, with Obama the runaway favorite. Most of the Arab participants I talked to seemed fascinated by Obama, and frightened by McCain (though one or two seemed worried about how Democrats would deal with Iran - a point to which I’ll be returning soon). Clinton rarely came up at all, one way or the other. Contrary to the odd but predictable notion now making the rounds, of the forty-plus Arab participants, journalists and local Qataris who I asked, not a single one mentioned “Obama’s really a Muslim” as the reason for their support. A lot of people expressed their doubts that Obama would really be “allowed” to win.

It’s interesting that, in Abu Aardvark’s limited sample at least, Obama’s charisma seems to appeal across cultural lines. It’s also significant that the US election is being followed so closely abroad. We’re eager to dig up foreign views on Campaign 08 to understand how the future president might affect America’s standing around the world.

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