- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
I just watched the video of Obama’s speech in Cairo, and I must say, I cringed when he said this line: "For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement."
Oddly, he pronounced Al-Azhar as "ulazar," and not "al azz har," as it should be pronounced. You’d think he would have been coached on that one. (Michael Goldfarb will be disappointed to learn that the U.S. president is not a secret Arabic speaker after all.)
Maybe Obama should have used phonetic spellings, like his predecessor often did?
The speech was mostly good, but it did contain some oddities, such as its repeated references to the hijab, the head scarf that many Muslim women wear. Obama seems to view this controversial article of clothing uncritically, reserving his comments for those, presumably in France and Britain, who support banning the hijab in public schools and so forth:
[T]he U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it. […] [I]t is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism. […] I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.
Obama should understand that women in Muslim communities don’t always feel that they have a choice about wearing the hijab. I heard many liberal, secular women in Cairo complain that they felt great social pressure bearing down upon them to cover their hair, and that the religious trend in the country meant the pressure was only increasing. A nod to such women’s concerns would have been nice to hear.
UPDATE: Peter Daou has more on the hijab:
With women being stoned, raped, abused, battered, mutilated, and slaughtered on a daily basis across the globe, violence that is so often perpetrated in the name of religion, the most our president can speak about is protecting their right to wear the hijab?