By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Editor in Chief of The Muslim Observer
The Wright controversy clearly demonstrates the impact of race in the ongoing presidential campaign. Obama is made to pay the price for attending the sermons of his pastor that damned the US foreign policy and held it accountable for 9/11. What was said by Wright is not different that what was reported by the 9/11 commission, or several congressmen as well as several Christian right leaders such as Falwell, Pat Robertson, Phil Graham and others.
It was not even different than what many of the commentators and political pundits have said in the past. Many of them have been heard saying on various occasions that 9/11 was a dastardly act on the part of Al-Qaeda that has used our foreign policy as a justification of its action.
Pastor Wright put the same analysis in his sermons within a religious context, saying God was angry for American government had done to different people in the world and 9/11 was a manifestation of that anger. Well, here too, the former Obama pastor was not alone in saying what he said. Thousands of US pastors belonging to different denominations expressed similar sentiments in their sermons after 9/11. Falwell, who himself uttered terrible blasphemies against Islam, summarized their statements when he said, â€œGod continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserveâ€ (reported by the Washington Post on its September 14, 2001, edition)
These reprehensible comments were condemned by many in the nation. But leaders like the president and his Republican supporters never challenge the Christian leaders who say those things, indeed they chase the favors and beg the endorsements of those individuals, casting a blind eye on the pious outright closed-minded bigotry of the white churchâ€™s leadership.
Theologically, the argument that God is responsible for natural disasters or man made disaster is a questionable issue. There is no doubt that within theologians of all faiths including Islam, there is an opinion that argues that God causes natural disasters as a warning to people for their deviant behavior.
More than any other religion, Christianity especially, the evangelical Christian traditions have firm faith in this argument. There are several other alternative options that challenge this assumption on theological grounds, but this is not the time to bring up those arguments.
The fact of the matter is that the old guards of American politics are making Obama a target for his association with Pastor Wright as they feel that his presidency might result in major changes in the way American capitalists and white Christian religious and political leaders have worked for the past several centuries. They are nervous about his rise and they are keen to see that he is made unelectable.
Obviously, the establishment is baffled at the support Obama has garnered among the youth and first time voters. They are surprised that younger voters are attracted to him and seriously looking for change in the way America works. This is all new to the establishment. Democracy is good as long it serves the interests of the establishment. The moment it gives power to those who are different or who want to change the old ways of doing things, democracy loses its attraction to the capitalists and power elites. Consequently, the elites start attacking all those who are seeking change. The real issues are buried under the rubble of character assassination and the emotional issues clothed in patriotism and religious values are brought up. This is what is happening in the present campaign. Rather than focussing on the real issue, the media and the political experts are focussing on the middle name of Obama, on the sermons of Pastor Wright and on stray comments.
They are not concerned about the war in Iraq, or the rising prices, or the rising white collar crime in the country, or in the declining rates of the dollar.
The media is not concerned about these issues because those who make and manufacture news are not effected with the economic chaos that is taking place in the country. They are not interested in the plight of common people. All they are keen is to serve the corporate world so that their fat salaries are never compromised.
This is the framework in which Obama and his former pastor are subject to intellectual lynching on the part of those in the media who are the staunchest supporters of capitalism and the existing status quo.
Obviously the Democratic primaries are reflective of the national scene. The power elite have succeeded in manipulating the media and other mass information sources to impact public opinion.
The coming weeks will provide intense battle between the forces of change and the forces of status quo, and it is likely Obama will come under continuing intense heat, more for what he is rather than for how he will serve.