Though the White House has vehemently denied Barack Obama bowed to Saudi King Abdullah during the recent Summit of the G-20 nations in London earlier this month, video footage of the president dipping his upper torso toward the Saudi monarch undercut the administration’s take on the events.The bow the president took could and should raise eyebrows among the black community, as many do not approve of bowing to those who would oppress them. As the subject is discussed more among various press sources, it will hopefully be brought more to their attention.
“It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” an anonymous Obama aide told Politico last week.
The bow caps off a rough start for the Obama administration during its first overseas jaunt. First lady Michelle Obama goofed when she placed her arm around Queen Elizabeth II and the White House blundered when it let Mr. Obama give the Queen an iPod. The Queen received an iPod last year from her grandson.
And while a handful of protocol violations to a friendly nation can be written off as the president adjusting to his new role, a bow to a royal leader in a hostile part of the world could potentially undermine U.S. foreign policy efforts in curbing the growth of terrorism.
During the campaign Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton warned Mr. Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience would undermine his effectiveness as a world leader. Now that Mr. Obama is president, he is facing a world determined to break U.S. hegemony and protocol violations could further embolden their cause.
And while the bow could be viewed as an isolated incident of inexperience, it could have long reaching effects in how U.S. leadership is perceived. Already Islamic newspapers are recognizing the gesture as a bow and signaling the bow marks a change in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
“Obama wished to demonstrate his respect and appreciation of the personality of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who has made one of the most important calls in the modern era, namely the call for inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue to defuse the hatred, conflict and wars,” wrote Saudi columnist Muhammah Diyab.
Though Islamic papers heralded the bow, Critics in the U.S. drove home the point the gesture would be far-reaching.
“Saudi Arabia is the single greatest financier of terrorism and through its madrassahs or ‘academies,’ as it calls them here in America, it seeks to raise the next generation of young Muslims to wage violent ‘jihad’ against our children and grandchildren. Every free person who tucks a child into bed each night should fear their success,” conservative activist Andrea Lafferty posted on her blog.
“I understand that diplomacy sometimes requires that we choose our words carefully as we seek to restore world peace. But we cannot and should not bow to tyrants.”
And on a related note, Obama shook with just one hand. For many Islamists, it's considered an insult to touch with the left hand.