President Obama traveled to Indonesia today for a long -awaited visit to his childhood home. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country. Tomorrow, President Obama plans to give a speech at the University of Indonesia, reaching out to the Muslim world. It's a follow-up of sorts to the speech he made in Cairo in 2009.
Students at the Indonesian Al-Azhar University will be among those watching tomorrow when the President delivers his address. Indri Hastari, a university student, said that Indonesians welcome his visit. ï¿½President Obama he is friendly to all of the countries so yeah, I'm happy.ï¿½
Indonesian scholars said they expect the President's speech tomorrow will cover some of the same territory as the speech he gave in Cairo, themes of tolerance, partnerships, and dialogue. Ahmed Lubis, vice rector of the Indonesian Al-Azhar University, said that he thinks that Muslims around the world are expecting the president to say something ï¿½that will really cure them and make them feel better about the United States.ï¿½
For instance, Lubis says Indonesians are hoping the president will speak about a Palestinian state, as he did in his first speech in Cairo.
But there will be a key difference ï¿½ Indonesia is not Egypt, said Ulil Abdulla of the Indonesian Freedom Institute. He pointed out that while Egypt is a dictatorship, Indonesia is a democracy. ï¿½The message that President Obama will sending to the Muslim world is much stronger than his speech sent from Cairo because Indonesia is a democratic country.ï¿½ He added that he thinks it's a good move by President Obama to send this message from Indonesia because Islam and democracy go hand-in-hand here.
Ulil expects the speech will be well received in Indonesia. Barack Obama is very popular. He lived there for four years as a child and the elementary school he attended has a large statue of him. Some here even think he is Indonesian.
Still, the president has his critics.
Many Indonesians are annoyed that he postponed his first presidential trip here,twice. Muhammad Suhadi of the Al-Azhar Mosque Foundation said the first time, people were ready for the president to come. The second time they were ready as well. ï¿½Maybe now there are some people among us who don't like him coming.ï¿½
Suhadi noted that it has been a difficult few weeks for Indonesia, with a tsunami and deadly volcanic eruptions. But he said the fact that President Obama has finally arrived may go a long way toward soothing hurt feelings ï¿½ even if volcanic ash forces the president to leave earlier than scheduled.