Leave It To a Brotha’ to Speak the Truth! … Thoughts on Obama’s Speech to the Muslim/Arab World


It’s my favorite word. Veritas means Truth in Latin.

I love Truth.

It’s crystal clear and absolutely undeniable.

I’ve always said we need a brotha’ in the White House, cos’a brotha’ will tell it like it is—that’s for damned sure. And sure enough, brotha’ was on it! Mr. Obama told it like it was. Straight. Bold. And with courage. As uncomfortable as it was to hear, he didn’t hide behind anything—he spoke the truth on many issues. And we’ve been needing to hear the truth for so long.

Obama extended his hand to the Arab and Muslim world in a way that no other president has ever before. By suspending the usual arrogance and condescending tone so often used by others, and speaking to his audience with real respect and dignity, he affirmed that one fundamental truth that we all know deep within our hearts: All men (and women) are, indeed, created equal.

It takes a certain, strength, wisdom and humility to extend one’s hand and open one’s heart, in order to begin the healing process. This concept is so clearly summed up in one simple phrase:

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Mr. Obama spoke their language, quoted their Holy Qur’an, and openly recognized the countless contributions of the Islamic and Arab civilizations, so often overlooked, or unknown, by the West. He spoke to their hearts. He spoke as a man to another man—not as a parent to a child. He apologized for America’s mistakes, pointed out theirs, and promised to create a new beginning.

And the right condemned him.

Hard line Republicans are funny people. Most identify themselves as Christians, but completely miss the message. They remind me of the Pharisees and Scribes that Jesus often condemned as hypocrites in the Bible. They’re hearts were hard and their own self-righteousness blinded them to the truth. They only understood the Letter of the Law – not the Heart of the Law—which, ironically, was Christ’s message. Jesus Himself broke bread with the “sinners” and the religious hardliners couldn’t stand it—condemning Him in every way they could.

Many conservatives condemn Obama for his peacemaking efforts. An apology speech? Apologizing for what, they ask? They should apologize to us!

Funny how humility is seen as a weakness, when in fact the opposite is true...

Humility is strength.

Somehow, they seemed to have forgotten that catchy little phrase in the Bible that says… “Blessed are the Peacemakers…for they shall be called the children of God.”

Trust me, Obama ain’t no God, not by a long shot—but he does speak the truth. And he talked of many truths that day. Mr. Obama was fair and balanced in his criticism, as well as his praise, to all sides. He listened. And he showed compassion. He honored the suffering and humiliation of the Jews in the Holocaust, while at the same time recognizing and validating the intolerable suffering and humiliation of the Palestinians. His basic message: A lotta s**t went down, and things got really f***ed up for everybody … We were all hurt in one way or another, and we need each other to heal our wounds. We need to talk to each other, and get through this s**t together.

How the soul of a nation, and of the world, begins to heal when the collective voice says “I understand” as Obama did. Comforting and validating one’s pain, does not diminish or threaten the other’s—the truth is, it helps to heal it.

He wasn’t all lovey-dovey, either. Like I said, he laid it on the line, called it like it was, and put his foot down. Kinda like when your mom had enough of your nonsense, and finally shouted “Enough!” and you knew it was time to settle down. Again, basic message: Nobody’s gonna live in peace and security unless you guys cut the s**t! So you better cut the s**t now! Because all your drama is bleeding over to my country and that s**t is causing us big problems…and uhh…we ain’t having that…you understand? Love you, but hey, I ain’t playin’!

Israel stop the settlements. Hammas stop the violence.

When I went to the inauguration in Washington, DC in January, I had the most beautiful experience. It was cold, and sunny, and there were literally thousands of people crowding the DC streets. A new change had come to the entire world. And walking in the streets, you could feel that fresh new energy, and hopeful, exciting spirit. And even with thousands walking in the streets, I swear, you could hear a pin drop. It reminded me of the civil rights marches, where the strength of unity and equality ultimately prevailed over the negativity. It was a beautiful day. And I thought to myself…41 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, we are celebrating the inauguration of our first African-American president. Amazing.  And yet 61 years after the creation of Israel, there is so much blood on the streets you can’t see straight. We can’t get it together…

Lay down a pool of Palestinian blood right next to a pool of Israeli blood and I swear, I can’t tell who’s who. Honestly.

And you know what? I bet you can’t either.

Blood is blood, babe.  Blood is blood.

True peace begins with dialogue and the understanding that underneath we are all the same…created by the same God.

Agnes Khalil is my mother. I love her. She was truly a peacemaker.

On the eve of the Yom Kippur war, when Middle East tensions were extremely high, my parent’s family's restaurant was jammed packed with patrons waiting to be seated. So Aggie, in natural form, sat a party of Jewish diners down to eat dinner with a party of Arabic diners—on one table. That was Aggie. Most certainly, she did it with a twinkle in her eye. That was her small way of bringing people together. She did it all the time. One human being at a time.

Blessed are the Peacemakers…

Now that Obama has taken the first step in reconciling global tensions, maybe we can begin healing.

We’ll see what happens.

But, I swear, I’m tellin’ you, straight up…

Leave it to a brotha’ to speak the truth.


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About Dalel B. Khalil

Dalel B. Khalil is a Syrian-American who just published FROM VEILS TO THONGS An Arab Chick’s Survival Guide to Balancing One’s Ethnic Identity in America. This hilarious, first-of-its kind book explains how to retain one’s sanity in the battle of the ultimate culture clash and offers hilarious explanations as to why we still have arranged marriages in this day and age! Most recently, Dalel spent 3 months in Syria where she traveled all over the country as well as to Lebanon, Jordan and Dubai. While in Damascus, she volunteered with Iraqi refugees and did public relations work with the Middle East Council of Churches—meeting directly with NGO’s and UN officials to see how Syria was dealing with the Iraqi refugee crisis. She engaged in many cross-cultural forums and multi-faith discussions to promote dialogue between the East and the West. She also got yelled at by rude taxi drivers who begged her to speak English because they didn’t quite understand her “ghetto-fabulous” Syrian accent. (Yill an…!) Prior to that, Dalel has worked as a reporter, anchor, talk show host and morning show co-host for three of Pittsburgh's top radio stations.

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