By: Waheeduddin Ahmed Ph.D.
It is obvious that Muslims have overwhelmingly voted for president-elect Obama, although the Obama campaignâ€™s discomfiture with their enthusiasm was only too obvious. Hijabi women were plucked out of the pictures for the media. Those Muslims, who were allowed to campaign for the candidate, had to do so under assumed names such as Alex and John (See Paul Vitelloâ€™s report in the NY Times of Nov. 7). The community activist of South Chicago and the senator, who had shown considerable sympathy for the cause of the oppressed at home and abroad, declared Jerusalem to be the undivided capitol of Israel on the campaign trail. One of the only two Muslim members of the Congress, Keith Ellison, was kept away from the company of the candidate lest the appearance of association may spoil the chances of election. Now, any misgivings among the Jewish electorate about the President-electâ€˜s favorable attitude towards Israel has been dispelled by the appointment of Rahm Emanuel, an ardent Zionist, as Chief of Staff.
In short, Barack Hussain Obama knows that in order to demonstrate his American-ness, he will, so to speak, have to run faster and faster from his Hussaini heritage and disown its barakah. The President-elect is, after all, a product of the system and is no revolutionary. We canâ€™t have Che Guevaras running this country.
What does all this indicate? It indicates that Muslims are pariahs in the United States, Obama or no-Bama. It took Collin Powell to put a finger on the pulse of the nation–but the truth is that no cure is even being contemplated. The frenzy among Muslims about the election result will be short-lived and the Obamania will be soon cured with a bitter pill of reality.
The American elections are about winning and the governing is about surviving and getting re-elected. Obama or no-Bama, the biggest players in the politics and the economics of this country are the corporate interests of oil, pharmaceutical, banking and insurance companies, which preside over a system of serfdom, putting their vicegerents as elected official at the helm. The recent financial crisis has lifted the curtain on the scene of this neo-serfdom in which we saw, for once, the captives breaking loose and running hither and thither but make no mistake; they will soon be rounded up and put behind bars — the bars of indifference and ignorance.
The Muslims of America are a special breed. A lot of them are expatriates, coming from various regions of the world and yet while expatriates their attachment to their home countries is so diffuse that they are themselves confused about their identities.
In the aftermath of 9/11 their patriotism for America came into question. They became the subject of the PATRIOT Acts. The spotlight was put on them, while not a ray of light fell on company executives and those at the highest echelons of politics, whose actions would make Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright look like figures on Mount Rushmore.
Let us take the case of the senator, a lifelong Democrat, who crossed party lines and opposed Obama because, in his words, Obama was not good for Israel. This is how patriotism is redefined in the American Lexicon. It is very difficult for America to compete with Israel for favors from our politicians, Obama or no-Bama. So let us settle down and accept this reality until such time as history takes its natural turn.
What are the Muslims of America to do in the meantime? One thing we can do is to disentangle our emotions from the conflicts abroad and focus on our day-to-day lives, as others have done. Most of us, particularly our children, will find our future, not in the Middle East or the Far East but here in America. The conflict in Palestine moves in a circle and has no end — that is what the circles are; lines with no ends.
Peace initiatives are commonplace in Israel. They happen on the eves of elections. Elections bring new governments and the Palestinians lose more ground at the start of new initiatives. The loop closes and another cycle begins. It is a cosmological constant; this is perhaps what Einstein had meant, when he introduced it for a static universe.
Let us look at the Middle East from a different angle than the one we are used to. People are living in their respective countries happily under their governments or they would have changed them. Half a century does not pass without revolt if people are endlessly unhappy. In any case it is not for us to wish them a change. They have to wish it themselves and then do something to bring it about. Who are we to tell them that their dictators, kings and colonels are up to no good?
Some of us, imbued with a few lessons in religious studies, are concerned with the implementation of the Shariah law and the creation of an Islamic State, a beautiful idea no doubt in the context of the Muslim majority countries but with little relevance to us here in this nation.
Some of us agitate for Khilafa. The Khilafa, when it comes, will be the fulfillment of a dream–but we in America will be outside its jurisdiction, as the Khilafa activists will themselves tell you. So let us put some of our sentiments where our future is and start planning for it, Obama or no-Bama.
The people of diasporas are always special people, whether they are Jews, Chinese, Hindus or Muslims. Their level of intellectual energy is very high, which enables them to accomplish extraordinary feats.
The Muslims of America are lagging behind others in intellectual achievements, not because of any intrinsic lack of quality but because of lack of focus and due to the diversion of their emotions.
This must change.
Madrasas are and must be an essential part of our childrenâ€™s upbringing. Religious discussions and seminars are valuable in keeping the intellect alive but let us return to the traditional seminaries of yesteryears, which gave birth to the renaissance of natural sciences and philosophies. Razi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Haitham and Hayyan were the products of madrasas, where learning was not restricted but universal and hence the word â€œuniversityâ€ (jameâ€™ah).
Let us change the culture of our madrasas, our weekly jalsas and our annual conventions of repetitive rhetoric and open our minds to inquiry and acquisition.
We are luckier than our brethren abroad in so far as our women are equal partners in these pursuits.
We are standing on the threshold of a new era. Let us write history and let not history write us off.