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Islam and Politics ( 4 Jun 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Obama can heal this rift between the US and Muslims and the world at large


BY Aijaz Zaka Syed

5 June 2008


WATCHING Barack Obama declare his nomination for the White House Tuesday night, one was reminded of his first speech in Springfield, Illinois May last year that unveiled his presidential campaign.


From that first speech on a balmy afternoon in Springfield to the victory speech in St Paul, Minnesota, Obama has come full circle. He has not only completed one year of most gruelling electoral campaigning — both physically and mentally — ever in history but he has proved himself the ultimate survivor fit for the most powerful job on the planet and global leadership. Surviving the Clintons is as good as winning the White House.


This amazing man of mixed parentage, exotic roots and a name that rhymes with Osama has gone as far as no African American ever has. Whether he eventually wins the White House or not, Obama is already a winner. He has already made history. He is the first person from a disadvantaged, marginalised minority community to lead one of the two main political parties in the world's most significant democratic exercise.


That Obama is a visionary nonpareil has once again been demonstrated in the way the senator has handled this turning point in the presidential race. While staking his claim for the Democratic ticket, he went to great lengths to praise his bitter and often times mean rival, Hillary Clinton, to the skies with a dignity and humility that would have made Gandhi proud. I am sure if Obama had lost this race to the Clintons, he would have accepted his defeat with the same grace and humility.


Perhaps this is what distinguishes winners from losers. Maybe this is what leadership is all about. So even as he smoothly went on winning one primary after another, picking up more and more votes and delegates and conquering the hearts and minds of the Americans cutting across race, colour and culture, his rival didn't know how and when to quit with dignity. Even after it became clear that she had lost the numbers game to her more charismatic and credible challenger, Hillary kept on insisting 'we are winning' — whatever that meant. Even in her final speech Tuesday night after Obama emerged victorious with 2,144 delegates in his kitty — 26 more than required to win the nomination — she did not have the courage to concede her defeat. Having lost the game and tried every trick in the book against Obama, the Clintons are now shamelessly eyeing the second spot.


Over the past few weeks, the Clinton campaign had largely been going through the motions, even as the candidate once seen as the 'president in waiting' grew absurdly desperate in her quest for power. From repeatedly raking up Obama's Muslim past to the threat of "wiping out Iran," everything was fair game for the Clintons. Desperate people go for desperate measures. And the Clintons have been dangerously desperate.


Which is why the people everywhere who have no role to play in the US electoral process are so relieved she is after all not going back to the White House. As for the Middle East, another Clinton in White House would have meant more of the Bush chaos. Given their hunger for power and proximity to the Israeli lobby, the Clintons would have brought nothing but more despair and misery to the Middle East and the world.


Ditto John McCain. He may have once raised his voice against human rights abuses and torture. But with his blind support for the war on Iraq and Afghanistan and his repeated calls to "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," he promises perpetuate the current reign of terror of the neocons. More importantly, he is as enamoured of the Land of the Zion as the current Occupant is.


Even as Obama wrapped up his nomination campaign by reaching out across the political divide promising the Americans hope and real change, McCain was sucking up to the Lobby at the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference.


The man who is lionised as a true American hero and who spent many years in the enemy prison in Vietnam promised his Israeli friends — and the Americans — the self same sick vision of perpetual warfare that has been the legacy of this trigger-happy president who used his dad's money to dodge the draft.


Obama exaggerates not when he warns McCain would be a third term of Bush Junior and more of the 'with-us-or-against-us' world. Which is why one so hopes to God Obama survives McCain and the Republicans, just as he has survived the Clintons, to reach the White House.


Because the alternate scenario is truly frightening. It will mean more wars and bloodshed in the holy land. More than a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan have paid with their lives for the juvenile fantasies of this Occupant. The last seven years and half have been some of the worst in the history of Palestinians people. Not to mention the general chaos this administration has visited on the world at large. From skyrocketing oil prices to the world food crisis to global economic collapse, the trail of this unholy mess leads right back to 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue.


What America — and the world by extension — needs is a healer like Obama, a messenger of peace and hope who would finally free the country that once inspired us all from the clutches of the bomb-the-Muslims neocons and war-hungry corporate interests like Halliburton.


It may not be possible for the Democratic candidate to win this race without the support of the Israeli lobby. But one hopes that with his unique background, Obama would at least try to bring some semblance of balance and sanity, and perhaps, justice to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Obama may not be a closet Muslim, as the Republicans and the Clintons imply. But being the son of a Muslim father that he is, he can reach out to the Muslim world.


Right now, let's face it, the US is easily the most despised country in the Muslim world, not because of its freedom and democracy as the Bushies claim, but because of doing the exactly opposite of what it claims to champion.


President Obama can heal this rift between the US and Muslims and the world at large. Not an impossible task, given what he has already accomplished. With a coloured skin and a Muslim for father, his coming this close to the White House is a miracle in itself. That's audacity of hope for you. And Obama has plenty of that. He believes in his dreams and they come true. One wishes he retains this audacity of hope when he reaches the White House. The world is waiting for November and President Obama.


Aijaz Zaka Syed is opinion editor of Khaleej Times. The views expressed here are his own. Write to him at


Source: Khaleej Times