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Monday, November 28, 2016

President Obama visits a US Mosque 100% trusted

M. Serajul Islam

When Barak Obama was elected as the first black President of America in 2008 on the message of change for which the whole of the country was clamouring, the rest of the world was also excited. The reason was because by invading Iraq on false premises, President Bush had turned the United States and the world upside down. The destruction of Iraq in which hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis were killed as “collateral damage” and failure to rebuild a destroyed nation have been the direct reasons for the birth of ISIS. The trillions of US dollars spent for the Iraq misadventure encouraged and led by the neocons advising President Bush was also the main reason that had pushed the US and global economy into recession.
The Muslims everywhere were also as excited as the rest of the USA and the world with the call for change by President Obama. His message of change was interpreted in the Muslim world as releasing them from any responsibility for the actions of the perpetrators of 9/11 that was illogically, irrationally and forcibly tied around their necks. The Muslims believed that President Obama’s call for change would also bring them closer with the West. They also believed that he would take one of the fundamental reasons that have aggravated the West-Islam conflict namely the Israel-Palestine conflict seriously and resolve it under his leadership.
Thus, Muslims around the world were excited when he went to Egypt in 2009 and made from one of the oldest seats of learning in the world, the Al-Azhar University, dismantled the neo-con view on Islam. He quoted from the Qur’an to establish that Islam is a religion of peace and that the acts of terror in which some followers of Islam have indulged had roots in their colonial experiences where their colonial masters who were Christians had imposed injustices upon them. The President nevertheless stated that the violent acts of a few but potent force within Islam that led to the 9/11 attacks on US soil had justifiably bred “fear and mistrust” in his country about Islam and Muslims.

 He weighed these facts and concluded that the religion of Islam and its glorious past, when reflected upon dispassionately, should convince everyone that it has been Islam “ that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment” and that “throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.” The President also touched upon USA’s roots of friendship with Islam in its founding years. And he urged strongly for a new beginning between USA and Islam based on history and in that context considered it of the utmost importance for his country to withdraw from Iraq to “leave Iraq to the Iraqis” and resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict that he considered a major source of tension.
Unfortunately, the President did not follow up on the promises he had made to the Muslim world in Cairo with the same conviction with which he had spoken. He did not take any serious initiative on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He withdrew US troops from Iraq but by the time that was done, the occupation had caused the damages and the seeds of future tension were already sown. Thus many now conclude that the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who were killed during the occupation without anyone bearing responsibility and the failure of establishing democracy in Iraq have been the twin causes for the growth of ISIS.
In his last year as President, he has watched and perhaps regretted that he did not follow up on his Cairo promises. Had he done so, he would not have seen the utter depths to which anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States has fallen these days making the neocons surrounding President Bush appear innocent. While there could have been some excuse to the anti-Muslim sentiments in the US following the 9/11 attacks because of the sheer magnitude of the violence that was a bull’s eye attack on US sovereignty; the bigotry that is now being witnessed in the United States led by candidates in the Republican Party who are aspiring to be the President of the country is unimaginable and unbelievable. True, largely under the influence of the media hype, ISIS has become a live threat to the majority of Americans to which ISIS barbarity shown around the world on the Internet has also contributed. Yet the truth is that so far, ISIS terrorists have not set foot in the United States and little has happened that would even be comparable to what the 9/11 terrorists led by Al-Qaeda had done. True also is the fact that ISIS’ terrorism has been horrific including its beheading of US journalists in captivity like James Folly but its victims have almost all been Muslims and non-Muslims under its territorial control. And all Muslim countries have condemned ISIS’ terrorism and have unequivocally stated that its actions are the antithesis of Islam.
Yet, led by Donald Trump with the pliant US media have created more security concerns from ISIS in the minds of Americans than there was following 9/11 attacks. President Bush who initially had faulted by his “crusade” comment in his first media reaction following 9/11 attacks immediately afterwards made serious efforts with politicians on both sides of the US political divide to underline that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks did not represent Islam or Muslims. Not so this time when Donald Trump in particular and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in collusion decided to use fear of Americans about ISIS for the new wave of absurd Islamophobia in their respective efforts to win the Republican ticket. According to White House Press Secretary, their anti-Muslim stance has been the poison that led to President Obama’s visit to the Baltimore mosque to assure American Muslims that they are as valued as US citizens as others who make up the US nation.
President Obama rebutted the current anti-Muslim rhetoric in clear and unequivocal language. He said:  “Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: You fit right here …you’re right where you belong. You’re part of America too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.” He called the anti-Muslim rhetoric, as bigotry that he said had no place in the United States and that all Americans together “got to show that America truly protects all faiths. As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves.”
There was a sense of urgency in the President’s defence of Muslims in America not just because the bigotry of Donald Trump and others contradicted American values enshrined in its constitution but also because such bigotry is in total denial of understanding of Islam and Muslims and in particular, American Muslims. On the issues of equating Islam with terrorism and then making Muslims in America pay for it, reason and rationality, knowledge and reality have been trashed for narrow, parochial and hateful political agenda. American Muslims today are not just peaceful citizens but one of the most prosperous community in the country who are aware that their prosperity is dependent entirely on American values that they could deny only by putting at stake their own prosperity and their future.
President Obama was statesmanlike in his address in the Baltimore mosque. He spoke for over 40 minutes and the address was shown live on TV. It should put some sense to the majority of the Americans although it is not expected to have any impact on the bigots that are being motivated by the Republican presidential candidates. Nevertheless, the speech from the President though it came late as President Bush had pointed out was a case of better late than never. It is bound to have an impact on the saner section of Americans. Outside America it will restore America’s credibility as a nation upon whom the rest of the world could depend on to respect human values that are proudly enshrined in its constitution.

The writer is a retired career Ambassador. His email is

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