"Respect" is the name of the far-left and Islamist political party George Galloway founded in the United Kingdom in 2004. Perhaps not coincidentally, respect - and often mutual respect - is also the motif of Barack Obama's initial statements about Islam:
His Inaugural Address included an assertion that "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
Obama's first interview as president, on January 26 to Al-Arabiya television, included no less than seven references to respect:
"what I've said, and I think Hillary Clinton has expressed this in her confirmation, is that if we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress."
"my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world that the language we use has to be a language of respect."
"the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that."
"I'm not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what's on a television station in the Arab world—but I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful."
"you've already seen a commitment, in terms of closing Guantanamo, and making clear that even as we are decisive in going after terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians, that we're going to do so on our terms, and we're going to do so respecting the rule of law that I think makes America great."
"our administration be very clear in distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda—that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it—and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down."
(2) Obviously, Obama has adopted the notion of respect as his key way to differentiate himself from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and to improve the popularity of the United States in the Muslim world.
(3) In fact, Bush "respected" Muslims as well; from White House iftar dinners to praising Islam as a "religion of peace," he consistently went out of his way to show deference. It is hard to imagine what more Obama can do in this regard.
(4) Muslim attitudes toward the United States will be determined far more by actions than by delicate phrasings of this sort. (January 26, 2009)
Apr. 3, 2009 update: Obama spoke in Strasbourg, France, today and again used the word "respect" seven times, though only four of them in connection with Muslims:
"I've sent a clear message to the leaders and peoples of Iran that while we have real differences, we also have mutual interests, and we seek new engagement based on mutual respect. And it is in that spirit that America and Europe must reach out to the vast majority of Muslims in our nations and in all nations."
"We know that transformational change is possible. We know this because of three reasons: First, because, for all our differences, there are certain values that bind us together and reveal our common humanity: the universal longing to live a life free from fear, and free from want; a life marked by dignity and respect and simple justice."
"Al Qaeda is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity. It is—don't fool yourselves—because some people say, well, you know, … if we were more respectful towards the Muslim world, suddenly these organizations would stop threatening us. That's just not the case. It is true that we have to change our behavior in showing the Muslim world greater respect, and changing our language and changing our tone."
Comment: The last statement is the most interesting, suggesting that Obama realizes that "respect" in itself does not solve every problem.
Apr. 6, 2009 update: Of course, "respect" was trotted out for Obama's speech to the Turkish parliament today:
"At the end of World War I, Turkey could have succumbed to the foreign powers that were trying to claim its territory, or sought to restore an ancient empire. But Turkey chose a different future. You freed yourself from foreign control, and you founded a republic that commands the respect of the United States and the wider world."
"In the last several years, you've abolished state security courts, you've expanded the right to counsel. You've reformed the penal code and strengthened laws that govern the freedom of the press and assembly. You've lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting Kurdish, and the world noted with respect the important signal sent through a new state Kurdish television station."
"I have made it clear to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran that the United States seeks engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
"I also want to be clear that America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree."
Apr. 7, 2009 update: "Respect" came up several times in Obama's meeting with Turkish university students:
"I came to Turkey on my first trip overseas as President for a reason …. out of my respect to Turkey's democracy and culture and my belief that Turkey plays a critically important role in the region and in the world. And I came to Turkey because I'm deeply committed to rebuilding a relationship between the United States and the people of the Muslim world—one that's grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect."
"I believe we can have a dialogue that's open, honest, vibrant, and grounded in respect. And I want you to know that I'm personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement. We can't afford to talk past one another, to focus only on our differences, or to let the walls of mistrust go up around us. Instead we have to listen carefully to each other. We have to focus on places where we can find common ground and respect each other's views, even when we disagree. And if we do so I believe we can bridge some of our differences and divisions that we've had in the past."
June 4, 2009 update: Obama's major speech in Cairo to the Muslim world was soaked in professions of respect:
"I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
"I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground."
"America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law."
"I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust [between Iran and the United States], but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect."
"America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments—provided they govern with respect for all their people."
"government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities."
"I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles."
"we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek—a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected."
"All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort—a sustained effort—to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings."
Aug. 21, 2009 update: Even in his Ramadan message, Obama referred twice to respect:
All of these efforts [that Obama had just enumerated] are a part of America's commitment to engage Muslims and Muslim-majority nations on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. And at this time of renewal, I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world. As I said in Cairo, this new beginning must be borne out in a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground.
Sep. 1, 2009 update: In a second Ramadan message, this time delivered in person before celebrating an iftar, Obama repeated almost the same words as in his more general statement for Ramadan: "Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect."
Sep. 23, 2009 update: In his speech to the United Nations, Obama referred four times to respect:
the time has come for the world to move in a new direction, we must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
America has worked steadily and aggressively to advance the cause of two states, Israel and Palestine, in which peace and security take root and the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians are respected.
In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope. We respect their rights as members of the community of nations.
The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians.
Feb. 13, 2010 update: In a video address to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum meeting in Doha, Qatar, Obama mentioned respect just one time:
in Cairo last year I called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
Comment: Might this paltry total mean that Obama is de-emphasizing the "mutual respect" theme?
Nov. 10, 2010 update: Indeed, the "respect" trope has practically disappeared. Over a year has passed without it and Obama only used the word once today in the course of a major speech about Islam in Jakarta: in announcing a new U.S.-Indonesian Comprehensive Partnership he called it "a partnership of equals, grounded in mutual interests and mutual respect."
Sep. 20, 2013 update: Speaking on behalf of Obama, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest twice referred to "mutual respect" in relation to a possible meeting with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani:
the United States, as the President has indicated on a number of occasions, stands ready to engage with the Iranians on the basis of mutual respect.
we have had a number of engagements with the Iranians and we'll continue to have conversations on the basis of mutual respect.