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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Some Proverbial ‘Million Dollar Questions’: Presidential Candidates

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Among the few situations that would amount to ‘million dollar questions’ is “what do the Muslims really mean to the current presidential contenders”? Reading between the lines of the current rhetoric of the major three candidates, Muslims are little more than a pestiferous condition of the society where the mere mention of their name or association with them is considered abnormal and deviant. Though the candidates know better than to say so in so many words, their dispassionate and somewhat stoic attitude towards the Muslim population leaves the indelible impression of the Muslims being nothing but a politically ineffectual, not to mention hopeless, group that is best relegated to the inferiority they are subjected to currently by the growing Islamophobia across the nation. So, “whatever gave me this idea” ? A lot actually.

The basic one is the disturbing sine qua non of the current times that the term Muslim is only to be equated with scare tactics. To be equated with the Muslims or the Muslim cause is seen as nothing less than an abomination. Support for Israel and the US ‘invasions’, ‘intrusions’ and ‘meddling’ in Iraq, Afghanistan, and possibly Pakistan and Iran next, is one of the top campaign promises whereas there is no mention of support for any situation that does not help the US interest. It is very hard to endorse candidates or vote for them when you know in your heart that they are actually seething for even standing next to you. When there were rumors about Obama being a Muslim, including that famous email on the net, his own almost immediate and vehement denial that he has ANYTHING at all to do with the Muslim faith gave him away. He asserted again and again that he was nothing less than a devout Christian. In the words of Safaa Ibrahim, the director of the Santa Clara chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, ‘We know these candidates will do what they have to do to get voted in. Because there’s such a negative outlook on Muslims, middle American would not smile upon candidates that are sensitive to Muslim issues’. Let alone admitting that they or anyone from their past five generations had been Muslims. This brings to light another million dollar question, ‘Would Obama have acted similarly had he been said to be a Jew instead?’

Then there is the incidence of the conservative radio show host at the Cincinnati rally who not only addressed Obama by his full name but also suggested that Obama might next ‘saddle up next to Hezbollah’. The effusive host was given a slight slap on the wrist for this by McCain, most likely in an effort to make hay while the sun was shining, but then also added that it was ‘wrong to disparage Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s integrity’ by such remarks. The word ‘disparage’ seems to hint at an arcana of political under-the-table-dealings that Muslims will always be shut out of. Again, one wonders, would the ‘integrity’ of the candidates have been similarly ‘challenged’ had it been suggested that they were related to the Jews in any way?

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There have been countless discussions on innumerable blogs on the net about who will be the best president for the Muslims. The fact of the matter is that Muslims are politically isolated. Where the three major contenders have been courting, wooing and inciting major voting blocks across the nation, the Muslims block seems to have been deliberately shunned. Would it be so wrong to assume that no one wants to associate with this block until the nomination is won and there is little left to lose? Though a number of republicans as well as the National Council of Churches have criticized some of the tactics, they still did not come as close as the fervent defense that any other religion would have received.

Gerald Seib and Sara Murray write in their article, ‘Political Perceptions: The World Intrudes on the Campaign’ in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Perhaps most provocatively, Hooman Majd of Salon looks at Sen. Barack Obama’s potential to improve relations with the Islamic World. Majd notes that on a visit to Iran not long ago he told inquiring Iranian leaders that he ‘couldn’t see Americans nominating, let alone electing, a black man whose middle name was Hussein’. He just might have been wrong, Majd says. But now he wonders why ‘Obama’s great potential to connect with the Muslim world, and to change how Muslims perceive the United States, is conspicuously absent from our national debate’.

Perhaps Obama cannot be blamed for shirking away from any association with the Muslims in even the slightest way as Islamophobia is playing a huge role in the 08 elections. The candidate who vows the most for the war on terror is the one who increases his chances to win. So how, in such times, can support be shown outwardly for the Muslim groups? The candidates talk about the right and wrong types of diplomacy. So how about applying the same to their contact with the American Muslims? When Hillary Clinton says, ‘We need a much more vigorous and robust and deep engagement’, how about with the US Muslims? When Obama said in New Hampshire, ‘If you want to get to know a country, you can’t parachute in. Iraq and Iran are examples of how we are isolated from these countries but are making a series of decisions basically in the blind. That is dangerous for us. Then, if we have to engage in military action, we are putting our military in peril because we are unable to make good decisions’. So how about when you aim to get to know a community? Isn’t simply ‘parachuting’ into a major religious group, such as the Muslim, dangerous too?

Needless to say, with Obama Muslims had felt camaraderie of sorts, considering that being an African American he might have had some feeling of what the Muslims are going through post 9/11. But it was far from being so as the majority of Muslims are convinced that the presidential candidates have done little but conflate Islam with terrorism and their general attitude reflects that the Muslims are nothing but a liability with which to keep the least contact. Omar Sacirbey writes in the Religion News Service, ‘They’re specially disappointed that Sen. Barack Obama, in denying claims that he is a closeted Muslim, left it at that. They say he could have at least defended Muslims or knocked down the notion that being Muslim is somehow negative’. Qasim Rashid has a weekly Muslim-themed oriented radio show and remarks, ‘I think he knows Islam isn’t a violent religion, but he certainly has some sort of hesitancy to talk about his experience with it because of a fear that this will damage his campaign’.

American Muslims have always tried to be as politically involved and educated about the national political process as they could. The last million dollar question is, have they always been accommodated on a par with their efforts?

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Manas Shaikh

    March 21, 2008 at 9:48 AM

    Irum

    Nice article. We need two strategies- one long term and another short term.

    The short term goal is to stop McCain from getting into office. It is because of people of MC’s ilk, that all that you point out is true. We have to try to keep him out.

    Another thing I would like to point out- we can’t push anybody in, given the situation. Nevertheless we possess the ability to push people out.

    We only have to vigilant about it. We have to prove that this guy is bad for US politics, and also throw his own dirty tricks back at him. Like his association with Hagee (a staunch anti-Catholic).

  2. Manas Shaikh

    March 21, 2008 at 9:58 AM

    In short- we can not help anybody get into office by endorsing him.

    (Any practical politician will not like to be associated with us- no matter what he thinks.)

    What we can do is educate people about the dangers of electing a guy like MC.

    Long Term Goals
    These are trickier to set. On a general principle, we may aspire to remove this environ of fear, and the gulf between an average American and a Muslim, and to have a greater share in the rights and responsibilities of the country.

    That is very unspecific. A tangible goal will be to bring 40% of Muslims to Mosques on friday, at least, by 2015. To have some success in business for the sole purpose of serving. What about creating a community healthcare system, in which others are welcome too? (An extension of Ummah Clinic?) Specially in economically backward areas. To network among Muslims in all walks of life and have at least 10 senators.

    And

    To set up a mainstream media outlet for everyone (Muslim and non-Muslim).

  3. Abu Omar

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 AM

    David Henderson wrote an interesting article on the political comments of Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

    http://www.antiwar.com/henderson/?articleid=12553

  4. Joyhamza

    March 21, 2008 at 11:24 AM

    salaam alaikum,

    After listening a lot about Barack Obama, i have listened to some of his speeches. They’re quite provocative but too much rhetorical for me. I hardly can get what he wants to do objectively. Its more of a word game to me. I am kind of allergic to rhetorical speeches. as far as i remember there is a hadeeth shunning using rhetorics.

    I am not from west. still i have an interest in US politics considering the great impact it has on the muslim ummah. Saying that, I want to ask few questions to the knowledgable brothers/sisters:

    1. I have heard that american muslims chose Bush in 2000. Is that true? if yes then what went wrong in the calculation? and what lesson from that is applied in endorsing Obama this time?

    2. If the effort is to keep McCain away from office, why endorsing Obama in particular? Doesn’t endorsing Democrats suffice? My simple derivation from the historical trend is that the ummah faced less trouble when the democrats ruled (at least in recent past). Am I thinking too naively?

    3. Going through the US muslim blogosphere, it seemed to me muslims are quite crazy about Obama. There’s one thing in warding of more harm by endorsing the lesser evil and quite another to drool about it. Somewhere down I just got the feeling that the thin line of walaa and Baraa was trespassed even if by little. What do you think?

    Lastly I am just trying to understand the issue and cancel out misunderstandings if any. I am definitely not trying to oppose and judge anybody by this. so cheers :D

  5. Manas Shaikh

    March 21, 2008 at 2:21 PM

    Flan

    you are amusing.

  6. Abu Hafsa

    March 21, 2008 at 6:22 PM

    @Joyhamza

    1. American Muslims chose Bush because Joseph Libermen (a staunch zionist) was on Al-Gore’s ticket for VP. Secondly, Bush’s conservative policies on abortion, gays etc. were closer to the Muslim viewpoint. Remember: 9/11 hadn’t happened yet.

    2. Because Hillary/Billy are both proven staunch zionists. Obama is unknown on this account but based on his recent statements I think he is too.

  7. Asim

    March 21, 2008 at 10:04 PM

    Great article! This is EXACTLY what has been on my mind for a while!

  8. Manas Shaikh

    March 22, 2008 at 5:03 AM

    “Obama is unknown on this account but based on his recent statements I think he is too.”

    Nobody can survive US presidential election without bowing down to their colonial master- Israel.

  9. Manas Shaikh

    March 22, 2008 at 5:04 AM

    What they call “military aid” is actually tax.

  10. Manas Shaikh

    March 22, 2008 at 5:06 AM

    By the way, shall we be bogged down to analyzing the situation, be sorry about it and go on as we were?

    Or are we going to do something about it?

  11. Nadia

    March 22, 2008 at 8:45 PM

    Great post. What do you guys think is the best way Muslims can have an effect in this year’s elections? Would it be to endorse one candidate, and if so should we all agree on one candidate and do a block vote? Or just vote democratically since none of the candidates seem to be appealing for Muslim votes, like this post mentioned?

  12. Irum Sarfaraz

    March 22, 2008 at 10:17 PM

    There is still time for us to make the key candidates aware of our feelings and to let them realize how their ‘indifference’ is being taken by us. It is only by doing this will the candidates sit up, take notice, change their attitudes and start thinking of positive ways to attract the votes of the Muslims. I am not saying that they will start ‘talking our language’ right away but even if they realize that their attitudes are going to hurt their chances in the elections, that will be enough of an achievement. Until we make our sentiments vocal and heard where they need to be heard and analyze the resulting reverberation of these sentiments, we will never figure out who the right person is to vote for.

  13. Esra Tasneem A

    March 23, 2008 at 10:22 AM

    Irum is very right …unless that is done the right person to be voted cannot be figured out ….. A thought has just struck me …. why can’t all the American Muslims in America join together , chose one day to take to the streets to show their dis-satisfaction in a most unique way , in a most expressive unconventional but most non-violent way .
    In unity is strength , in unique unconventional methods is power that can be harnessed to benefit the discriminated & the down-trodden so that crafty politicians will never get to be voted .
    Nothing is impossible if done with the intention for the positive cause of Islam & its sincere believers ….. so put on your thinking caps & get to work . Inshallah you may well get to succeed … I am not an American , but it irritates me most when Obama keeps defending himself at the expense of Islam . He has no right to do that whatsoever .

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