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Faisal J. Abbas

Faisal J. Abbas

Posted: June 8, 2009 12:25 PM

Obama Dubbed "The Heir of Antar" As Reactions To His Cairo Speech Continue


It doesn't seem that the reactions to President Obama's recent speech in Cairo are going to end anytime soon.

In his column today, veteran Washington Post writer, Jim Hoagland, described Obama as "a president who knows how to put on a brave face in public."

"Obama told the Muslim world to stop denying the Holocaust and to stop applauding the murderers of Sept. 11, 2001 -- just before he called on Israel to halt settlements in Palestine -- required moral toughness and clarity. He deftly anticipated the risks of following this middle course," Hoagland added.

Meanwhile, legendary Egyptian actor and UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador, Adel Emam, has reportedly described the American President as an "example of a cultivated politician who knows how to get what he wants in the quickest possible way."

On another front, the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" was quite evident in a recent cartoon published by the leading Saudi national daily, Al Watan.

The drawing shows former US President George W. Bush asking 'Why do they hate us?" as he gets tossed at with shoes, right next to a smiling Barack Obama receiving flowers and asking 'Why do they love us? "

2009-06-07-ObamaCartoonAlwatan.jpg
(Source: Al Watan - Saudi Arabia)

However, if there was a "reaction of the week" award, then it should go without any hesitation to popular Iraqi poet, Abbas Chechan.

Chechan recited a hearty poem on the pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya's leading talk show, "Eda'at." (full video available from Elaph)

The poem, written in the popular "Sha'bi" style, describes President Obama as the Heir of "Antar," the mighty black warrior-poet in Arab tradition, while adding that in Obama's eyes, one could see the eyes of "Bilal," the prime "Moua'zzen" (Caller of Prayer) in the days of Prophet Mohammad.

Chechan then went on complaining about what Iraq had suffered since the 2003 war, which he described as "Al Qiyama" [armageddon], saying:

"My dear sir, President Obama... Ever since the war of 'Al Qiyama'...we've had 2 million widows and 5 million 'Yatama' (orphans)"

"My dear sir, President Obama, in addition 7 million of us were displaced and had to travel the world begging for an... 'Iqama' [permit to live in another country]"

2009-06-07-Poet.jpg
(Chechan on Al Arabiya's Eda'at)


However, as pride is a major element in popular Arab poetry, the poem didn't lack stressing that despite losing everything, Iraqi's will never lose their "Karama" (dignity).

Another interesting part was where the poem says:

"My dear sir, President Obama... We all hated America before you came, but now... an olive branch and a... 'Hamama' [dove]! "

Chechan is well-known in Iraq, yet he receives mixed reviews particularly because of political positions, which reflect heavily in his work.

He is said to have criticized the Saddam regime at one point, but when the former Iraqi leader was executed, Chechan wrote a favorable obituary which turned many, reportedly including family members, against him.