The next leg of his Forgive Us Our Trespasses World Tour set to take place on Thursday in Egypt, President Obama must walk a fine rhetorical line between expounding the virtues of Islam and satisfying the concerns of Human Rights Watch.
By Cynthia Johnston
CAIRO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama must challenge Egypt's rights record during his visit to Cairo or risk lending legitimacy to harsh tactics of an authoritarian government, rights activists say.
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has roundly celebrated Obama's choice of venue for his speech to the Muslim world on Thursday as a victory that recognizes Cairo's regional sway at the crossroads of the Arab world and Africa.
Activists say Obama must tread a careful line. Direct and public criticism of his host could rile Cairo and spark a backlash, but they hope Obama will still address abuses like police mistreatment and press for freedom on some level.
"Many Egyptians are extremely concerned that the decision to give the speech from here is in effect a good housekeeping seal," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in Cairo.
His group said Obama needed to combat a growing perception rights were "a second-rank concern," and Stork said he hoped the issue would not simply be relegated to private diplomacy.
Others said they were not looking for Obama to publicly dress down Egypt but still expected action at least in private.
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