Uploaded on Jun 3, 2009
AFP - President Barack Obama will Thursday make a historic multimedia address from an ancient hub of Arab civilisation to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, seeking to narrow a chasm between America and Islam.
Obama will fly early Thursday from one center of Islam, Saudi Arabia, to another, Egypt, to give a long-awaited speech in Cairo crafted to temper antipathy towards the United States felt by many of the faithful.
"There has been a breach, an undeniable breach between America and the Islamic world," said David Axelrod, Obama's top political advisor, as the president launched his Middle East mission with talks with Saudi King Abdullah.
"And that breach has been years in the making, it is not going to be reversed with one speech. It is not going to be reversed perhaps, in one administration.
"But the president is a strong believer, in open, honest dialogue."
At the venerable Cairo University, Obama will deploy his ultra-modern new media machine to push the speech on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, aiming to take the message viral, and maximise its impact.
The State Department website is offering listeners the chance to register for text messages from the speech in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English and Whitehouse.gov will stream it live.
Obama will target the well of distrust in the Muslim world towards the United States, which saw its image sullied by the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, Guantanamo Bay, the stalled peace process and the Iraq war.
He must also address those Americans, still stung by the September 11 attacks in 2001, who view the religion through the prism of extremism.
Yet critics warn Obama's hopes may founder, given that he has no intention of changing policies -- like staunch backing of Israel -- that make the United States unpopular.
Some question whether his trademark soaring rhetoric will conceal undercooked policies towards a region in tumult.
Others fault him for undercutting his message by speaking in Egypt where critics accuse President Hosni Mubarak, who Obama meets Thursday, of repression.