Hitchens: Obama's laughable Cairo speech

Take the single case in which our president touched upon the best-known fact about the Islamic “world”: its tendency to make women second-class citizens. He mentioned this only to say that “Western countries” were discriminating against Muslim women! And how is this discrimination imposed? By limiting the wearing of the head scarf or hijab (a word that Obama pronounced as hajib—imagine the uproar if George Bush had done that). The clear implication was an attack on the French law that prohibits the display of religious garb or symbols in state schools. Indeed, the following day in Paris, Obama made this point even more explicitly…

But to the women who are compelled to dress according to the requirements of others, Obama had nothing to say at all, as if the only “right” at stake were the right to obey an instruction that is, in fact—if it matters—not found in the Quran. In Turkey, too, head scarves for women are outlawed in some contexts. Is this, too, Islamophobia? Does the president think that the veil and the burqa are also freely chosen fashion statements? This sort of naiveté is worrying, and it means that among the global Muslim audience, the wrong sort of people were laughing at us, while the ones who ought to be our friends and allies were shedding a disappointed tear.