Posted on October 8, 2008

“Obama Clearly Will Work a Magic in the Islamic World”

Fareed Zakaria, CNN, October 5, 2008


ZAKARIA: I’m here in Singapore with three very distinguished analysts of international affairs: Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Simon Tay, the chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs; {snip}


You wrote in Newsweek that, if Obama were elected president, 50 percent of the anti-Americanism in the world would disappear.

Why is it that Singapore is Obama-crazy?

KISHORE MAHBUBANI, DEAN, LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY, SINGAPORE: Well, let me emphasize, not all of Singapore is Obama- crazy. But there are many in Singapore who are actually troubled by the growing divide between America and the world.

And you must remember that Singapore lives in a region where, indeed, Singapore is surrounded by more Muslims than Israel is. Right?

And so, as a consequence of that, we have to put our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the Islamic world. When it gets angry, it affects us. If it calms down, it’s a better environment for us.

And Obama clearly will work a magic in the Islamic world.


MAHBUBANI: The president of Indonesia. And he was very clear. And he said, and several other people said that, if Obama—if the Indonesians could vote, 200 million Indonesians would vote for Obama, partly because he will be the first Bahasa-speaking American president.

And also, at the same time, I think he understands, you know. He can connect with the rest of the world in a way that I think McCain cannot. The psychological universe of McCain is a very confined one. The psychological universe of Obama understands the diversity of the world.


So, there is a magical effect that Obama is having on the rest of the world. And that’s why, frankly, all the polls show—most of them, with some exceptions—the Muslim world for Obama.

ZAKARIA: But the lowest number is in India, Raja.

RAJA MOHAN, COLUMNIST, “THE INDIAN EXPRESS,” AND PROFESSOR, RAJARATNAM SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, SINGAPORE: I think in India, I think our heart is with Obama, but our head is with McCain. Our heart is with Obama, because I think Obama represents not only, you know, the American system’s capacity to change, it’s also we’re debating in India, about how do we empower our minorities, how to empower our lower castes.

If Obama can become the U.S. president, there’s also a debate in India that the Dalit leader, Mayawati, can become the next prime minister.


MOHAN: {snip}

But at the same time, when we look at the issues on trade, I think any day I would take the Republicans. On outsourcing, I would take the Republicans. On immigration, I would take the Republicans.


ZAKARIA: Because the Republican position, you wouldn’t accept it.

MOHAN: And the problem with the Democrats is that they come with their single-issue groups. Somebody does nonproliferation, somebody does human rights, somebody does workers’ rights. I mean, you have them going around pricking everyone in Asia, without a sense of a coherent vision.