• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • The President’s Words are Indeed Powerful—in Indonesia, too

    The President’s national security team prepared a solid speech for him to deliver at the University of Indonesia yesterday. The speech, intended as a follow up to his 2009 Cairo speech to the “Muslim world,” was first posted on the State Department’s America.gov website in its “as prepared for delivery” form. It was well-tailored to an Indonesian audience and avoided all the ill-advised religious language of the Cairo speech.

    Unfortunately, the President had some of ideas of his own.

    Judging by the changes posted in the revised speech he ad-libbed.

    Apparently, the President believes his experience in Indonesia between the ages of six and 10 trumps the wisdom of the professionals hired to advise him. The speech, still pointing to the importance of Indonesia’s diversity, tolerance and constitutionalism, was amended at beginning and end with “assalamualaikum.”

    Now, just to be clear: There is nothing wrong with this phrase. In English, it means “peace be upon you.” Muslims around the world use it as a greeting. The Indonesian President himself uses it to open public speeches. It is a fine sentiment and one to be respected.

    But there is a problem with President Obama using it. First off, in the Indonesian context, it is a bit nonsensical for a Christian to use; It is something that Indonesian Muslims—devout ones in particular—sometimes say to each other. I must say that in dozens of visits to Indonesia, I, a Christian myself, and with many Indonesian friends, have never said it. Interestingly enough, in much of the Arab world—from whence the phrase originates—Christian do not say it; Marhaba (hello) is a readily available non-sectarian greeting.

    That’s the protocol. And in this case, it is just plain wrong. Silly, really. Its like Obama’s bow to the Japanese emperor, the Chinese President Hu Jintao and King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. Its just too much.

    But its more than just protocol. Indonesia is at least 15 percet non-Muslim. How are these non-muslims to feel about the President of the United States greeting them in a way intended for Muslims? How should they interpret it? They were, after all, in the audience, too

    Certainly, the President of the United States should be mindful of their concerns. At the very least, he should not compound their discomfort. There are also many, many Muslims who prefer not to wear their religion on their sleeve. Is President Obama endorsing the views of those like Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Tifatul Sembiring? Tifatul, former President and member of Indonesia’s Islamist PKS, believes Indonesia is not Islamic enough, and that, among other things, Muslim men should be forbidden to shake hands with women. The President knows him well for the press coverage of his struggle with being presented the First Lady’s hand.

    The President of the United States represents all Americans. Likewise, when abroad he should speak to both majorities and minorities in the countries he visits. He spoke eloquently about Indonesia’s tolerance, citing its unique national ideology Pancasila (the five pillars of Indonesian constitutionalism: belief in god, just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, representative democracy, and social justice) and its national motto, Bhinneka Tunngal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Unfortunately, his use of an exclusive greeting, seemingly a small thing, spoke just as loud.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to The President’s Words are Indeed Powerful—in Indonesia, too

    1. Billie says:

      It's time to step down from America's presidency, Mr Obama. Religions of uncivil behavior are not welcome in America and either are those that show love for them.

      If you can't respect or understand or encourage civil law to be equal to all you are not an American president.

      Since America has no leadership roles in the world, the world must be living within their own means without funding from America. Cut foreign funding.

    2. Lou Alfano, Pennsylv says:

      Didn't Indonesia recently prohibit Christians from using the word "Allah" in referring to God, particularly in print? "Allah," in my understanding, is the Arabic word for the one God, and to confine its use to Muslims is a classic case of religious intolerance. So much for a religiously tolerant Indonesia.

    3. Dr dbiggs,CA says:

      Pres OBOZO: "Tea Bagger-in-Chief"

      You Can LIE but can you READ?

      Invasion by illegal ie "Criminal Aliens"

      Obviously you have never read the United States Constitution or

      else feel that in your ivory tower and wealth that it does not apply to you!!

      I feel you need to read the following and act according to the peoples wish

      not your wishes or special interests wish list!

      There are three references to the words "invasions," "invaded," and

      "invasion" in our U.S. Constitution:

      Article I, Section 8: "The Congress shall have Power To Provide for calling

      forth the Militia to execute Laws of the Union, suppress

      insurrections and repel Invasions."

      Article I, Section 10:"No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any

      Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time

      of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with

      another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War,

      unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as

      will not admit of delay."

      Article IV, Section 4:"The United States shall guarantee to every State in the

      Union as Republican Form of Government, and shall

      protect each of them against invasion, and on

      Application of the Legislature, of of the Executive (when

      the Legislative cannot be convened) against domestic

      Violence."

      Your Oath of Office and sworn duties as referenced mean you must Act and

      put a Stop to the Invasion of all the Illegal immigrants we are experiencing.

      Our U.S. Constitution mandates that invasions shall be repelled by Congress.

      and that means the persons in the House of Representatives and the U.S.

      Senate. Our nation's sovereignty must be protected.

      How can you even stand in front of a mirror and even look yourself in the eyes

      knowing you are a "Bought & Paid Hoe" for special interests and the

      Democratic Party Hacks? Tell me I am wrong, please because I fear for the

      future of our country as you certainly don't care about the people or our

      country!!

      You go to the SAME PLACE for LYING as you do for STEALING!!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×