Magazine article The Middle East

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Magazine article The Middle East

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IT will be 20 January 2009 before Barack Obama officially becomes president of the United States of America but if ever a new leader was heralded as a conquering hero it has been this one. And not just by his fellow Americans, it seems that the whole world is ready for the change Obama promised.

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What kind of leader he will make remains to be seen. It's difficult to see how he can live up to the messianic fervour that has surrounded him since the election result was announced on 4 November. He is, after all, just a man but the fact that he has Hussein in his name gives him a fighting chance with me, and I imagine a lot of other Middle East watchers.

A number of observers have pointed out, and rightly, that Obama has yet to prove himself a friend of the Arabs; indeed the fact that more than 70% of American Jews voted for him, is seen as something of a concern in some Middle Eastern capitals but let's give this man the benefit of the doubt. When as a youth he lived in Jakarta, it was a Muslim school he attended and most of his friends there followed the religion of Islam. Although he and his immediate family are Christian, it is clear his wider family has strong connections to Muslims which is, I believe, unique to the office of president of the United States. His dual heritage as a true African-American and the fact that he has an aged grandmother living in a small village in Kenya gives Obama a global and, at the same time a somewhat rustic appeal. …

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