World Citizen: Arab World Suddenly Cooling to Obama

World Citizen: Arab World Suddenly Cooling to Obama

AMMAN, Jordan -- Ever since Barack Obama proved to be a viable presidential candidate, news that America might elect a man with an African father, a Muslim stepfather, and a widely multicultural background to the White House has electrified the world. After eight years of the Bush administration, analysts suggested that simply electing Obama, regardless of any subsequent policy changes, would begin solving America's severe image problems around the globe.

Nowhere was this phenomenon supposed to manifest itself more powerfully than in the Middle East. If America elects Obama, the argument went, Muslims will give Washington the benefit of the doubt. Maybe so. As of now, however, it looks as if many in the Muslim world are having second thoughts about their initial enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee. To be sure, Obama remains far more popular than his Republican opponent, John McCain, but the electrified buzz about a potential Obama presidency has lost some of its wattage.

The early excitement was palpable. In January, when Obama stunned his Democratic rivals with a sizeable victory in the Iowa caucuses, the Middle East was entranced. Chibli Malat, a Lebanese political analyst, advised the candidate to play up his Muslim roots. "You should be proud of your Muslim legacy," he recommended, "Make it a central plank of your campaign to become a world leader."

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