Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dalia Ziada reacts to Obama's Mideast speech from the youth perspective.

June 4, 2009
Muslim activist: Obama brought us together
Posted: 09:29 AM ET
Carol Costello - Contributor, CNN's American Morning
Filed under: Middle East

Dalia Ziada reacts to Obama's Mideast speech from the youth perspective.

President Obama reached out to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims this morning from Cairo, addressing relations with the west along with a good portion devoted to women’s rights.

“Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons…”

Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian human rights activist and blogger, who attended President Obama’s speech in Cairo. She spoke to Carol Costello on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.

Carol Costello: First of all, I want to know what it was like to sit in the audience. What was the mood like?

Dalia Ziada: The hall was full of people from different walks of life. Mostly Egyptians, Muslim Brotherhood, mixed with liberals, mixed with socialists, capitalists, people from different backgrounds, religious backgrounds like Muslims, Christians, Coptics, Baha’is. Obama succeeded to do what we always fail to do, which is bringing all of us together in one whole and agreeing on certain things and certain points.

Costello: Dalia, while he was talking about women’s rights, did most of the audience clap? Did just some? Did just women?

Ziada: No, all the audience clapped because he took it from a traditional point of view. You know, people will believe you more – and believed Obama, and Obama was credible more for them because he spoke, first, about tradition, about Islam. And from this, he speaks about women’s rights. He refused extremism. He rejected extremism, which we all reject, but he did not reject Islam. So everyone clapped, including men who are against women’s rights or consider women’s rights not something good to speak about. Everyone clapped.

Costello: I know by your note to us you were happy about that. I want to talk about the students and how this went over with them. Barack Obama is trying to win the hearts and minds of young people. You talk about Cairo University and that student political groups are prohibited. The policy on artistic and cultural events is to “protect students from corrupt thoughts.” So how did President Obama go over with a student body that has to get their education with these rules in place?

Ziada: Education is the biggest problem in the whole Muslim world, particularly for women. And, you know, always an enemy for any society is ignorance. And once you remove ignorance, anything can happen. Once you…have educated a generation, this generation will know their rights and they will fight for it in a [non-violent] way and that is what we want.

Costello: Will this spur young people to fight against the government restrictions in place right now against them? Against the freedoms that they want?

Ziada: Yes, of course. Obama said he believes in young people and he believes that young people can [remake] the whole world. He said let’s forget about the past, let’s forget yesterday and focus on tomorrow. And I totally agree with him on that.