Thursday, May 1, 2014

Barack Obama's Forgetable Trip to Malaysia

Malaysians will have known of Barack Obama’s official two-day visit to Malaysia on April 26, 2014. I am not wrong to say that there are many Malaysians who couldn’t care less about either Obama or Najib Razak. Even so, we must still ask the question, what did we gain from Obama’s visit? 

Well, the US President and the Malaysian Prime Minister witnessed the signing of some MOUs between Malaysian and American companies in the aviation, biotechnology and insurance sectors that were supposedly worth $2 billion – according to the New Straits Times today. But MOUs are just documents that put on paper, the parties’ intentions. It is really no big deal. 

But Najib should be happy because he managed to get Obama to take a selfie with him – probably at his own behest. The former posted on Twitter a picture of himself posing with Obama and creating a ripple on social media. But the selfie has proven to be a bane on Obama. 

A New York based daily is going to town pouring scorn on the US President, calling it a public relations fiasco. It seems that when he was in Seoul, Korea, Obama gave 13-year old Mika Taylor (photo above) the cold shoulder. She had waited for hours to take a selfie with him but Obama dismissed her request. His argument was that if he heeded to Taylor’s entreaty, he would have to do the same for others. 

And then came his selfie with Najib a day later, paving the way for speculation that selfies with Obama are only reserved for the political elite. 

“My selfie with President Obama !” Malaysian PM Najib Razak wrote when he uploaded this snap to Twitter on Sunday 

Truly, selfies are getting Obama into trouble. Earlier this month, the president became the subject of a marketing stunt when he snapped a photo with Red Sox legend David Ortiz (see photo below) – not knowing that the latter had signed a deal to become a social media envoy for Samsung, the maker of the smartphone used to take the presidential selfie. 

And I am sure you can recall the criticism he received for posing for a selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt during Nelson Mandela's memorial last year. 

And that was not all. Obama violated a Malaysian law based on religion. He uttered the phrase “Insya Allah” during his visit to the National Mosque and this was in the presence of the imam, Syaikh Ismail Muhammad. 

The Prime Minister’s Department had failed to warn Obama that the phrase is one of more than 20 that non-Muslims cannot use under a Home Ministry ban. But Obama got away scot-free. No Malaysian authority – not even the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) – dared to pounce on him and book him for this infraction. Other defenders of Islam – whether Perkasa, Isma and/or the others – showed how capable they are when they kept their traps shut. In fact, instead of scolding Obama for his transgression, Syaikh Ismail actually praised him for using the phrase! 

We cower when Americans are involved but with fellow Malaysians, we hound, harry and harass them! I bet you, we will very quickly forget that Obama was here! He didn’t leave much of an impression as far as I am concerned. His trip to Malaysia was much ado about nothing.

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