The Obama`s Gaffes blog has about the same reaction to the New Yorker cover that I did, and reminded me of this Nicholas Kristof story from last March, in which "In a free-ranging interview with the New York Times, Obama described the Muslim call to prayer as ‘one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.’ The Times`s Nicholas Kristof wrote, Obama recited, ‘with a first-class [Arabic] accent,’ the opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer. "Pretty good for a guy who can`t really speak any foreign language.
The part about "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset" is just nostalgia—the Muslim call to prayer is annoying when it`s not frightening. This is especially true since the muezzins got hold of loudspeakers in the 1950`s. Here`s more of Kristof`s fantasizing about how sophisticated Obama will be as a result of childhood foreign travel:
In foreign policy as well, Mr. Obama would bring to the White House an important experience that most other candidates lack: he has actually lived abroad. He spent four years as a child in Indonesia and attended schools in the Indonesian language, which he still speaks.“I was a little Jakarta street kid,” he said in a wide-ranging interview in his office...He once got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school, but a president is less likely to stereotype Muslims as fanatics — and more likely to be aware of their nationalism — if he once studied the Koran with them.Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”Moreover, Mr. Obama’s own grandfather in Kenya was a Muslim. Mr. Obama never met his grandfather and says he isn’t sure if his grandfather’s two wives were simultaneous or consecutive, or even if he was Sunni or Shiite. (O.K., maybe Mr. Obama should just give up on Alabama.)[Obama: Man of the World, March 6, 2007]