Mister President, not another sermon!

Barack Obama needs to have a frank conversation with Al Jazeera, our senior political analyst says.

president Obama
Obama’s planned speech has been met with skepticism at a time when the Arab Spring is sweeping the region [GALLO/GETTY]

Dear Mr President: Making another speech is welcomed, especially during these uncertain times. But frankly, it won’t make that much of a difference unless it is followed-up with a frank and open conversation.

We’ve already heard three cornerstone speeches destined for the Arab and Muslim worlds, and realise all too well that you’re the commander-in-speech. And we’ve also watched you fight on three war fronts in the Muslim world, as the US Commander in Chief.

But shooting hoops is nothing like ‘one-on-one’ when playing ball, Barack- if you don’t mind me calling you by your court name. You need to put your lay-ups to the test.

And in the Arab court, there is one heavy-weight worth taking on, and that’s Al Jazeera. Playing with light-weights is not becoming of someone who boasts about his jump-shots.

Yes, your speeches are aired live, and watched by millions. And yes, this one will be dissected and deciphered once again by the pundits. But at the end of the day, it will be just another sermon; an attempt to talk over peoples’ heads.

This is no time for more lectures and promises. You need to talk to us.

I read about your much touted pedigree and personal story. And like you, Al Jazeera is also the embodiment of plurality of race and ideology, as well as the home of a plethora of ethnic identities and nationalities.

Indeed, within the sphere of global and Arab journalism, ‘we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for’.

The Arab world needs to hear certain answers to indispensable questions. With our pulse on the regional and global mood, we have the pertinent ones for you.

Yes, we will come at you with all we’ve got. And yes, we might take advantage of your weak points, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.

Your financial gestures to Egypt and other reformers in your speech this week and, what is certain to be more of the same strategic gestures to Israel during your AIPAC speech next week, aren’t enough.

Piecemeal solutions and more political phases would only compromise peoples’ power and defuse the will of the masses.

You must address the perception of hypocrisy (past policy vs present promises, rhetoric and reality), double standards (pressures on certain regimes but not on others) and indifference regarding some important regional and geopolitical challenges facing the Arab world, notably Israel’s four decade colonial dictatorship.

These could only be answered satisfactorily through an exchange that you need to have with the Arab and the Muslim worlds.

A speech, no matter how eloquent, how bombastic, or how promising doesn’t compare to a humble conversation.

Through our Arabic and English channels, we are the network that’s watched by much of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Our credibility, and open freedom of expression, render us the indispensable media outlet among Arab and global satellite networks.

As your own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it: Al Jazeera is “changing peoples’ minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective”. 

Meanwhile, you’ve given interviews to US news channels, which by Clinton’s own admission “aren’t keeping up”.

I’ve just chatted for the third time in four months with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and he could tell you why we’re almost addictive.

By the way, with the killing of bin Laden, the visit of Israel’s prime minister and the belated support you’ve shown to the Arab Spring (late is better than never…!), we have much to talk about.  

After three sermons and a funeral, it’s time to converse Mr. President. What say you!