Regardless of whether one subscribes to the notion of a clash of civilizations, I think we can all agree that relations between “the Islamic world” and “the West,” however one defines those labels, are, well, strained. President Obama was elected at least partly because, with childhood roots in Muslim Indonesia and an Arabic middle name no one was allowed to mention until after the election, the Left believed him to be the perfect candidate to heal that rift. When he wasn’t healing the racial divide, America’s reputation abroad, and the planet, that is.
So right out of the gate, Obama made his first order of business an appearance on al-Arabiya TV, in which he made seven references to “respecting” the Muslim world, his flashing neon semaphore to them that he was no imperialist exploiter like his predecessor (Daniel Pipes notes here how common a motif the word “respect” was for Obama, ironically so for a man who commands none either at home or abroad). Then it was on to a self-important speech from Cairo, in which Obama flattered the Islamic world so effusively that one wondered if he was angling to ask it to the prom. And of course, who can forget his show of contemptible dhimmitude – I mean deep respect – to the Saudi King?
His efforts haven’t exactly mellowed the clash of civilizations into a Kumbiya campfire circle. And yet Obama was at least theoretically on the right track. Because a recent poll by the new Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre reports that a large majority of Muslims say that the best way for the West to improve relations with them is to “respect Islam.” But the West has made every effort at “Muslim outreach” and bent over backwards to make social and cultural concessions to its Muslim citizens. President Bush himself expressed a distasteful degree of deference toward Islam, and Obama far surpassed even that; so how much more respect will it take to make the Muslim world feel sufficiently respected?
The issue needs to be reframed. Since even our most gushing genuflection seems to have accomplished nothing except to incite further expectations of respect, it’s time for the West to take charge of this dialogue on our terms. We in the West – apart from Obama and his sycophants – are accustomed to the understanding that respect cannot simply be expected, much less demanded; it has to be earned. So now the question becomes, what must that majority of Muslims who want respect for their religion do to earn it? How can they make their religion, well, more respectable?
What follows are ten suggestions (some of which mirror Robert Spencer’s five ways to end Islamophobia) for those Muslims cited in the Gallup poll to take to heart – those who, like Rodney Dangerfield, lament that they can’t get no respect.