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Islam and the West ( 6 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslim world responds to Obama win with cautious optimism

Washington: American Muslims quick to congratulate Obama

New Delhi: Indian Muslims find little to cheer over Barack win by Pradeep Thakur

Islamabad: Pakistan congratulates Obama sees improved ties

Obama win: Bad news for Pakistan by Sachin Parashar

New Delhi: Kashmir on Obama agenda by B Raman

IRAN: Ahmadinejad congratulates, cautions and advises by Obama Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Jeruslaem: Arabs happy Obama won... and that Bush's man lost by BRENDA GAZZAR

Much of Arab World Rejoices Over Obama Election by Edward Yeranian

Arab commentators want to be able to admire America again by Zvi Bar'el

Virginia: South Asian NGO played big role in Obama's victory

Syed Asadullah

 

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American Muslims quick to congratulate Obama

Andrea Shalal-Esa

Washington - The largest U.S. Islamic civil rights group was among the first to congratulate President-Elect Democrat Barack Obama, a man who some opponents tried to portray as a Muslim because of the childhood years he spent in Indonesia.

“President-elect Obama’s victory sends the unmistakable message that America is a nation that offers equal opportunity to people of all backgrounds,” the Council on American Islamic Relations said in a statement just minutes after Obama’s victory speech in Chicago.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the group, said they hoped to offer the Obama administration some support and advice.

“We look forward to having the opportunity to work with the Obama administration in protecting the civil rights of all Americans, projecting an accurate image of America in the Muslim world and playing a positive role in securing our nation,” Awad said.

Obama, who will be the first black U.S. president and whose middle name is Hussein, is a Christian. But throughout the campaign, false rumours circulated on the Internet that he was Muslim and therefore not a suitable candidate for the White House.

Son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, Obama spent part of his childhood in largely Muslim Indonesia.

More than 20 million copies of a film called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” were included as advertising supplements in newspapers across the country, many in battleground states.

CAIR lashed out against the film, which was distributed by a private group unaffiliated with the McCain campaign and featured suicide bombers, children being trained with guns, and a Christian church said to have been defiled by Muslims.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican and African American, endorsed Obama last month saying that he was troubled by the attempts to link Obama to Islam.

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?” he asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion ‘he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America,” Powell said. Source: http://blogs.reuters.com/trail08/2008/11/05/american-muslims-quick-to-congratulate-obama/

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Muslims find little to cheer over Barack win

Pradeep Thakur, 6 Nov 2008

New Delhi: The Hussein in Barack Obama has failed to enthuse Muslims in India as they expect little to change as far as US policy towards the community (read Iraq and Pakistan) is concerned. They find no solace in the fact that the American president-elect carries the legacy of a Muslim parentage from his Kenyan father.

The Muslim community is apprehensive about his actions and believes that it may not be any different from what George Bush pursued in the last decade — using force to maintain US hegemony over the world, with little room for dialogue.

After flagging off a special train from Deoband on Wednesday carrying more than 6,000 Muslim clerics to Hyderabad to deliberate on issues of terrorism and national integration, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief and Rajya Sabha MP Mahmood Madani said the community was not at all excited.

"I am not very enthusiastic. I don't think Obama can divert much from the way George Bush carried forward American polices," Madani said.

But if Obama remained committed to his promise that he would like to solve issues through dialogue and not by force, it would really change the world and bring about peace and harmony as the president-elect would like to see, the Jamiat leader said.

However, Madani felt the reverse could also happen. "In his zeal to prove his patriotism, Obama may not take the bold steps required of him to bring America out of the mess that it has created in Afghanistan and Iraq," the MP said. The name Hussein would only work against him, Madani added.  Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Muslims_find_little_to_cheer_over_Barack_win/articleshow/3679396.cms

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Pakistan congratulates Obama sees improved ties

Islamabad, November 06, 2008                                              

Pakistan's president, premier and opposition leaders Wednesday congratulated US president-elect Barack Obama on his watershed win, saying they were looking forward to promoting peace and stability in the region with his cooperation.

"President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed the hope that Pakistan-US relations will be enhanced under the new American leadership that received a popular mandate in Tuesday's poll," said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, reported the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

 Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said in a separate statement that the elections marked "a new chapter in the remarkable history of the United States."

"For long, the ideas of democracy, liberty and freedom espoused by the United States have been a source of inspiration for the millions around the world. I hope that under your dynamic leadership, the United States will continue to be a source of global peace and new ideas for humanity," he said in a letter to Obama.

Gilani also congratulated vice president-elect Joe Biden, reminding the new administration that it is taking charge at a time when the world faces multiple challenges.

 He, however, made no mention of the strained relations between Islamabad and Washington, two key allies in the fight against terrorism. US forces have launched several attacks on suspected Al Qaeda hideouts and Taliban militants in Pakistan from bases in Afghanistan in recent weeks, prompting outcries from the Pakistani government.

Khurshid Ahmad, a senator from Jamaat Islami, the nation's largest Islamist party, warned that if Obama did not review the aggressive policies of outgoing president George Bush, "peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan would remain a dream."

Nawaz Sharif, a former premier and current leader of the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said he hoped that, under Obama, the United States would abandon the policy of supporting military dictators, like the former president Pervez Musharraf.

"We are confident that under your wise and sagacious leadership, Pakistan's relationship with the United States will be established as a genuine partnership between two peoples who treasure freedom, passionately believe in democracy and espouse partnership and engagement among all nations," Sharif said.

 Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said the change in the US administration would be meaningless until US forces were pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

 "If Obama continues the previous policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and he obstructs the enforcement of Islamic Sharia in Pakistan, we will continue our armed struggle against the United States," he said Source: www.hindustantimes.com

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Obama win: Bad news for Pakistan

Sachin Parashar, 6 Nov 2008,

New Delhi: After its initial lack of enthusiasm for Barack Obama, India was pleasantly surprised when the Senator from Illinois, now the president-elect of US, slammed Pakistan for its nudge-nudge, wink-wink policy on terrorism.

In the first week of August, Obama had follow this up by declaring that, if elected, he would not shy away from striking inside Pakistan to take out Al-Qaida and Taliban terrorist camps. Tough words that would please New Delhi. But for Pakistan, this can only be bad news.

There is no doubt that the US under Obama is likely to crack the whip, much more sharply than what the Bush administration has done in the past few months, even as it dangles the carrot.

The carrot was, of course, non-military aid. Obama's veep nominee Joe Biden, as chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, had proposed non military aid worth $15 billion for Pakistan in the next 10 years. Indian analysts are sceptical whether this would actually ameliorate the depressing situation in Pakistan if the US targets Pakistan territory even on the basis of "actionable intelligence". In short, they are doubtful if the carrot-and-stick policy will work.

"Whatever the nature of financial help, it would be very difficult for a nationalist Pakistan government to accept such violations of its sovereignty. There are chances that people in the NWFP would go against the government and we will see more instability in Pakistan," says retired IFS officer Rajendra Rai who also served as India's consul-general in New York.

Possibly, for Obama democratization of Pakistan is linked inseparably with the war against terror, but many believe that this is meaningless because Obama's threats only mirror the Bush administration's current policy. And that hasn't helped.

Pakistan itself is rather nervous about the Democrats. While the government is positively inclined towards Biden, who has constantly advocated more aid for Pakistan, many in the country look upon Obama with suspicion because of his threats to strike inside Pakistan.

Obama's comments about militants, and not India, being Pakistan's main enemy is also evoking scepticism in Islamabad. While Biden is not bad news for Pakistan, the problem is that Obama is likely to be a hands-on President and the foreign policy will veer around his line of thought.

Besides, Biden's economic bailout will not come without a price. The US under Obama is likely to force Pakistan to go slow on the dispute in J&K, hitherto the country's main weapon against India. "While we may not see this happening out in the open, chances are that the US will, behind the scenes, force Pakistan not to foment more trouble in the state denying it what its military and ISI believe is the country's leverage against India," says a senior government official.

As for Afghanistan, Obama has announced that he will pull out troops from Iraq and deploy two more brigades in Afghanistan. While the decision to pull out troops from Iraq is seen as a positive sign, deploying more troops in Afghanistan can be read both ways.

The real war on terror is now taking place on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and more troops can be of help. However, as some experts argue, the US ought to have realized that there cannot be just a military solution in Afghanistan.

"Obama has also announced increasing non-military aid but it doesn't serve the purpose unless the local Pashtuns are engaged in a dialogue. They hold the key to any solution and the government of Hamid Karzai, himself a Pashtun, has lost all credibility," says a security analyst.

The Pashtuns are chary of the Karzai administration and Obama's decision to deploy more troops in the country can only stoke the fires there. It would, in all likelihood, give a greater sense of righteous purpose to the Taliban that has regrouped in Afghanistan.

Source:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Obama_win_Bad_news_for_Pakistan/articleshow/3679186.cms

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Kashmir on Obama agenda

B Raman

It could be back to the days of Bill Clinton's first term in the White House when Washington tried to appease Islamabad by putting New Delhi in the dock on the Kashmir issue

The US presidential race is over. The transition drill has begun. Mr Barack Obama will take over as President on January 20 next year, but his immense work as the President-elect would have already begun from the moment he left the dais after making the acceptance speech.

The Americans call it the period of transition. It is during this period that the President-elect chooses his team, decides on policy priorities and works out his goals during the first 100 days of his Administration and thereafter. The core of his team will start co-ordinating with the outgoing Bush Administration.

Mr Obama will be entitled to a regular briefing by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Director, National Intelligence, from November 5, on important developments. The Bush Administration will not take any major decision or initiative without keeping him in the picture.

Speculation as to who could be his Cabinet members and other senior advisers had started before the election. In an article on October 26, the British newspaper, The Independent, put its bet on the following Obama team:

Secretary of State: Mr John Kerry (Senator from Massachusetts), Mr Richard Holbrooke (former UN Ambassador), Mr Bill Richardson (Governor of New Mexico, former UN Ambassador).

Secretary of Defence: Mr Robert Gates (current Pentagon chief), Gen Wesley Clark (2004 Democratic presidential candidate), Mr Chuck Hagel (outgoing Republican Senator from Nebraska).

Treasury Secretary: Ms Laura Tyson (former economic adviser to President Clinton), Mr Timothy Geithner (president, New York Fed), Mr Paul Volcker (former Federal Reserve chairman).

National Security Adviser: Ms Susan Rice (Mr Obama's top foreign policy adviser), Gen Anthony Zinni (former Commander-in-Chief, Central Command), Ms Samantha Power (former Obama foreign policy adviser).

Others: Mr Colin Powell, possible foreign policy special envoy/troubleshooter; Ms Hillary Clinton, health care czarina.

There could be surprises because he will have a political debt to pay to those who supported him and they may want some of their nominees to be accommodated.

India will have no special reasons to be concerned over the possibility of any of the persons mentioned by the Independent joining the Cabinet, except possibly Mr Holbrooke whose becoming the Secretary of State could lead to a re-hyphenation of India and Pakistan vis-a-vis America's relations with both countries, bringing back the hyphen that had been removed by President George W Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Another person of concern to India would be Ms Madeleine Albright, who was Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. Though the paper did not mention her mane, she was reportedly a member of the inner circle which was advising Mr Obama on foreign policy matters during the campaign.

India will also put a question mark on Mr Colin Powell, who was, as Mr Bush's Secretary of State, particularly not well-disposed towards India. It was only after he was replaced by Ms Rice that India-US relations really started moving forward with many initiatives to acknowledge the importance of India as a major power at par with China. Concerns over Pakistani sensitivities ceased to be an inhibiting factor in US policy-making with regard to India. Gen Zinni is an unknown quantity. He has many friends in the Pakistani Army.

It is still 10 weeks before Mr Obama takes over as President, one does not know how the economies of the US and the rest of the world would move during this period. Till now, the US and the rest of the world have been seeing only the impact of the meltdown on the rich -- banks, stock markets, and business companies, people who have the money to dabble in stock markets and to keep deposits in banks. The world is yet to see the impact on the common man, who is worried only about his day-to-day living and not about stock markets, mutual funds and bank deposits. The impact on the common man would become evident by the time Mr Obama takes charge.

The common people in the US and the rest of the world will be watching how he deals with the financial crisis. Understandably, apart from rhetorical statements, Mr Obama has been sparse in his policy pronouncements on the economic crisis. The American economy will occupy a major part of his attention during his first few weeks in office.

His pronouncements on India and Pakistan, which were music to the ears of the people in India in the initial months of the race, became jarring during the closing days of the campaign. Initially he praised India and supported the initiatives taken by the Bush Administration in relation to India. He was very critical of Pakistan's inadequate co-operation with the US in the war against Al Qaeda. He also criticised the Bush Administration for giving to Pakistan weapons that it could use only against India and not Al Qaeda under the pretext of strengthening its counter-terrorism capability. He hardly spoke of Indo-Pakistani issues.

But as the campaign reached its culmination, he started speaking of the Kashmir issue in a language which reminded one of certain officials of the Clinton Administration. Mr Obama's entourage and Gen David H Petraeus, former Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, who took over as the Commander of the US Central Command on October 31 and is presently on a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan, have one thing in common -- they listen a lot to the assessments and recommendations of Mr Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani analyst who has written extensively on the Taliban and the war against terrorism. In fact, Gen Petraeus has reportedly nominated Mr Ahmed Rashid and Mr Shuja Nawaz, the author of the recently published book on the Pakistani Army called Crossed Swords, as members of a brains trust to advise him on a new strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ahmed Rashid has been arguing for some months now that the Pakistan Army cannot be expected to cooperate wholeheartedly with the US Armed Forces in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban unless there is a forward movement in settling the Kashmir issue and India is pressured to cut down its presence in Afghanistan. There were not many takers for his arguments in the Bush Administration. But they have already started influencing the thinking of many who are close to Mr Obama.

Will Mr Obama exercise pressure on India on the Kashmir issue and its role in Afghanistan, or will he let his pre-election remarks remain without follow up action? This is a question which should worry Indian policy-makers.

Source: http://www.dailypioneer.com/132481/Kashmir-on-Obama-agenda.html

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IRAN: Ahmadinejad congratulates, cautions and advises Obama

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Ahmadinejad2 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today posted a congratulatory message to President-elect Barack Obama on his official website.

But his lengthy note also cautioned Obama to change America's ways and to reverse policies based on what he described as "belligerency, occupation, bullying, demagoguery," among other things.

It is part of Iran's complicated response to the election of Obama, who has said he'd be willing to speak with Iran's leadership, as detailed in a report written for today's Los Angeles Times.

Ahmadinejad begins his note with the kind of flowery, somewhat overblown language typical in the Middle East:

    I congratulate you on your success in mustering the majority of votes cast in the presidential elections. You know pretty well that the opportunities God grants to people he has created are short-lived, and they could either serve perfection of mankind and interests of nations or, God forbid, disserve nations. I hope that His Excellency will favor the genuine interests of people and justice over the never-ending demands of a selfish and fallible minority, so that you can seize on this chance in the best manner and leave behind a good legacy.

But he quickly gets down to the nitty-gritty, advising the freshman senator on what he must do to be an effective president.

Ahmadinejad writes that Obama must "overhaul" America's domestic and foreign policies because the people of the world and U.S. expect it.

Below are extensive excerpts from an unofficial translation of the letter:

    On the one hand, the spiritual-minded American nation expects its government to concentrate its efforts entirely on serving people, healing the ongoing critical economic crisis, restoring its reputation, reviving hopes for eradication of poverty and discrimination, respecting  dignity, security and human rights as well as bolstering family foundations –- all of them teachings of God's messengers.

    On the other hand, the nations of the world bank on the hope that policies based on belligerency, occupation, bullying, demagoguery, humiliation of nations and imposition of discriminatory and unjust relations on them and on global interactions -– which have provoked resentment from all nations and the majority of governments ... and have harmed the reputation of Americans -– turn to behaviours based on justice and respect for human and national rights, friendship and non-interference in others' affairs...

    Specifically in the sensitive Middle East region, the U.S. government is expected to rethink its 60-year unjust behavior and opt for helping nations -– notably the innocent Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan nations –- fully regain the legitimate rights denied them.

    Iran's great, civilization-producing and justice-seeking nation welcomes fundamental, realistic and just changes in [U.S.] politics and behavior particularly toward the Middle East.

    If you take steps on the divine path and follow the teachings of divine prophets, God, the Almighty, will help you to make up in part for the heavy damage inflicted [by the U.S.] in the past.

    I pray for God to bestow happiness, health and welfare on all nations, and help leaders of societies learn lessons from the past, take advantage of chances of serving people, expand kindness, remove oppression and establish justice.

Source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/11/iran-ahmadineja.html

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Arabs happy Obama won... and that Bush's man lost

By BRENDA GAZZAR, Nov 6, 2008

Arab and Muslim reaction to incoming US President Barack Obama's electoral victory around the globe has been largely optimistic, but some remain sceptical that Obama will bring significant change to the Middle East.

The excitement appears to be as much a celebration of Obama's victory as of the perceived defeat of President George W. Bush - in the shape of his would-be Republican successor John McCain - whose foreign policies in the region have drawn widespread criticism from the Arab and Muslim world.

"Farewell racism, farewell tyranny, farewell wars and terrorism," wrote Muhammad el-Said of Egypt Wednesday on the Facebook social networking site page entitled "The Arab campaign to support Obama…a necessity and a moral obligation."

In rare praise, Syria's state-run newspaper Al-Thawra said Thursday that it "extends its hand to Obama," that his win "inspired" people around the world and that the American people should be congratulated for electing him.

Also Thursday, Iran's official news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying that Iran hoped Obama would change America's international image and avoid invading foreign countries. But Iran also warned US forces in Iraq on Wednesday that it would respond to any violation of Iranian airspace, a message analysts said may have been directed at the president-elect.

"Recently it has been seen that American army helicopters were flying a small distance from Iraq's border with Iran and, because of the closeness to the border, the danger of them violating Iran's border is possible," Iranian state radio reported, according to the Reuters news agency.

"Iran's armed forces will respond to any violation," the radio said, citing a statement from Iran's army headquarters.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told BBC television on Thursday that he was confident that the new US president-elect would not try to undermine the security situation by accelerating the withdrawal of US troops from the country, according to Radio Sawa, an Arabic-language radio station funded by the US government.

Some have argued that it makes little difference to America's foreign policy that Obama was elected, despite his slogans and promises for change.

"There is no significant difference between Obama and McCain," stated a November 5 editorial in the Saudi daily al-Watan, reported Thursday by the Middle East Media Research Institute. "They disagree only on the means to achieve America's chief goal, which is to rule for another hundred years."

Because Obama will have to deal first and foremost with the global financial crisis that is affecting America, some experts argue that "it will actually push the priorities of the Middle East down the ladder."

The financial crisis "will consume most of Obama's time," said Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Cairo-based al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Iraq, however, will be much more of a priority than the Arab-Israeli peace process, in part because the economic crisis is linked to the economic situation on the home front. "Getting out of Iraq will not only be an election promise, but it will be an economic necessity," Aly said.

Others say that since Obama will be very focused on domestic issues like the economy, foreign policy could largely be shaped by the secretary of state and foreign policy team he chooses.

"Because he is going to be focused more on domestic issues, they will have that much more influence," said Robin Shepherd, senior fellow and head of the Europe Programme at the London-based Chatham House.

Meanwhile, some in the Arab world say they are hopeful that the election of Obama will inspire change in their own countries, where long-running dictatorships and nepotism often reign.

"The winds of change are blowing in Egypt," wrote Muhammad al-Burhamy, who lists himself as a Qatar resident on the Arabic-language Facebook page. "Just as we strongly supported change in the US, we are also calling more and more for a decisive change in Egypt."

Source:http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1225910057509&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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Much of Arab World Rejoices Over Obama Election

By Edward Yeranian

Cairo, Nov 05, 2008

Much of the Arab press, as well as ordinary people in the street, are rejoicing over the election of Democrat Barak Obama as the next president of the United States. Nevertheless, as Edward Yeranian reports from Cairo, there are misgivings in certain quarters.

People on the streets here in Cairo, and across much of the Arab world, appear elated by the election of Democrat Barak Obama as the next president of the United States, despite some apprehension in the Gulf and in Lebanon.

Commentators on Al-Jazeera TV, which has consistently criticized the outgoing Bush administration for its policies towards the Arab world, appeared almost jubilant over Mr. Obama's election, with many hailing the results of the election as a "positive for the Arab world."

The Syrian daily Techrine writes in Wednesday's editorial that "any president will be better than George W. Bush, and any administration will be better than his administration." Damascus is the subject of U.S. sanctions for its behavior towards both Lebanon and Iraq.

Egyptian Ahmed Fathi, from the city of Dakalia, writes on Al-Arabiya TV's Web site "God bless Obama. He's good for the world and will solve its problems, Inshallah."

Leyla, a Lebanese Christian, however, says that she and those around her are "not very enthusiastic about Mr. Obama's victory," but that she hopes "he'll turn out OK, just the same."

Mustapha Ghalayini, a Lebanese man who works in Kuwait, thinks that many Kuwait's are pleased by Mr. Obama's election, even if they don't think he'll be especially good for the interests of the Arab world.

"The Kuwaiti people don't believe that Obama will be a real help to the Arabs, but they believe he will be a new experience for the Arabs and the world, and they are happy at his winning the elections of the United States," he said.

Uraib Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman, Jordan, says that many Arabs and many Arab governments are pleased by the Obama victory, but not all.

"It was a great win for Mr. Obama in yesterday's elections, for some Arab countries and people, especially the Palestinians, the Syrians, even the Jordanians," he said. "I think they have welcomed this great victory from the democrats and Obama."

"But, for some Arab Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and those who deal really with the Bush family and with the Republicans in particular, I think it is not a good moment for them; they prefer to deal with the Republicans and not with the democrats, since the democrats emphasize democracy and human rights and those issues are not welcomed in such countries as Egypt, and Saudi Arabia," he added.

Essam El Aryan, who is a leader of Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood was mostly optimistic about Mr. Obama's election and thought it was good for both the Arab and Islamic worlds.

"I've listened to the address made by Obama this morning and I was highly impressed by his charisma and his ideas," he said. "I compliment Mr. Obama and this was a very big victory for himself and also for the American people and I think it will be a great victory for the whole world if he can change America and go to change the world."

"I think after the massacres done by the previous administration of Mr. Bush Jr., I think this will be a new era for the Arabs and the Muslim world for their relations with the USA. We hope that Mr. Obama can change the strategy of America towards the Arabs and the Islamic world, and mainly to be committed to his promise to withdraw from Iraq and to look to the Palestinian issue by another view … thirdly to stop the support for the previous administration, since more than 60 years, to the tyrants of the Arab and Islamic world and to stop support to dictatorship," he continued.

Despite the general tone of optimism in the Arab press over President-elect Barak Obama's victory, the Arab daily Al-Hayat ran a caricature showing an Israeli wielding a gun at an Arab man, joking "heads, Obama, and we win; tails McCain, and you lose," suggesting that the paper thinks neither candidate will really be beneficial to the Arab world.  Source: http://voanews.com/english/2008-11-05-voa42.cfm

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Arab commentators want to be able to admire America again

By Zvi Bar'el

"The hope that Barack Obama's mere candidacy for office in the U.S. presidential race will generate a fundamental change for the better in President George Bush's policy in the White House is not a reasonable one," the Saudi publicist Hamad Al-Majid wrote recently, in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat daily newspaper.

"But if he Obama is elected, then two positive elements will materialize. First, It will put an end to the white man's monopoly on the White House. Additionally, it will create the optimal conditions for adoption of minor adjustments into American foreign policy, so as to make it less arrogant and less impulsive than the one championed by his predecessor."

The expressions of caution against getting carried away with admiration for the "Obama wonder" contain the elements of the Arab and Muslim outlook on Bush's policy and on its conservative shapers. The "white man" who presided in the White House is the same man who dragged the region into two major wars against Arabs and Muslims; one in Iraq and he other in Afghanistan. He is the same "white man" who nurtured hatred of Arabs and launched a "crusade" against them.

And this is why the "support the world gives Obama is a show of support for America the way Obama would like it to be," as Al-Hayat columnist Jamil Matar put it. "An America that will recover the admiration of the nations for its achievements and its superior values, compared to the backward value system proliferating in other parts of the world. "The world [has given its vote] to Obama so that America may shed its arrogance and its violence and its use of terror and torture, and so that it will employ justice in international commerce. It is also the vote of Arabs for an America that will not hate them or the Muslims or Islam, and that will not side with Israel and support its terrorism," Matar went on to write.

Al-Majid, Matar and many other Muslim and Arab commentators who have expressed themselves about the presidential race over the past week have come to view Obama not only as the man who will head the American executive arm, an architect of a new foreign policy or political and economical plans, but a giant who will alter America's essence, as it was moulded by Bush.

Obama is seen as a person who will allow Muslims and Arabs to internalize Western ideas rather than reject them only because the person spreading them is a unscrupulous thug.

"The world is not preoccupied with the question of who will be the next U.S. secretary of state," Matar also wrote. "What the world is interested in is having a man who will step into the White House and announce the end of a dark phase in American history, and in the history of the world."

That "dark phase" went on for the eight years in which Bush sat in the White House, which left a deep rift between America and Islam. The fundamental cause for this rift, however, the 9/11 terrorist attack, is hardly ever mentioned in columns in the Arab media. For the Arab commentators, the phase began, rather, with the invasion of Afghanistan, followed by Iraq, and continued with Bush's lackadaisical approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The White House itself is not worse or better that it was under Bill Clinton, but it is guilty of one great sin - that of arrogance and condescension. Those words keep recurring in articles by Arab and Muslim thinkers.

That same arrogance is seen by them as the generating force behind the "New Middle East," which aspired to bring democracy and equality to Muslim nations - by force, if necessary - while in fact the U.S. administration supported dictatorial regimes like those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Is the ideological change for which the Arab thinkers long capable of changing U.S. foreign policy? That optimistic prediction is hard to come by even in Iraqi and Afghan papers, let alone in Iranian media. The media in the region continue to focus on the number of casualties from terror attacks, furore over U.S. air raids in Afghanistan and the fear in Iraq concerning the strategic agreement between Baghdad and the U.S., which might mean American troops will stay in the country for another three years at least.

In Iraq and Pakistan, everybody knows no new American president, Republican or Democrat, is going to be able to change matters overnight. For the time being, the president-elect can only create a new atmosphere. And that already would be no small feat. Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1034305.html

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South Asian NGO played big role in Obama's victory

5 Nov 2008,

Virginia: South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), an NGO which advocates for civil rights and immigrant rights issues facing the community in the United States, has played a big role in the victory of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama by galvanising the immigrant community in America.

Approximately 2.7 million South Asians live in the United States, which comprises individuals with ancestry from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives

The SAALT educated the immigrants about their rights and their participation in the civic and political process in the United States. Both Democrats and Republicans were pulling out all the stops, especially in a few crucial swing states to woo Asian immigrants, which could decide the results.

A survey conducted just before the polls showed that 41 percent Asian-American voters supported Barack Obama, 24% McCain, where as 34% remained un decided.

South Asian political involvement in the US has been on the rise over the past decade, and the run-up to the November 4 presidential elections showed that South Asians - the third largest Asian American ethnic group - have been actively engaged in the presidential campaigns, voter mobilization efforts, and bids for state and national office.

Talking exclusively to this agency, SAALT's executive director and lawyer Deepa Iyer said Asian-American voters' concentrate mainly on economic policies, public health, immigration and education.

Pointing out the reasons for more participation of the South Asian communities in the November 4 US presidential elections, Iyer said: "There are many reasons for the engagement of the South Asian community in the elections this year."

"First of all in terms of our community's history it is natural that as people get more engaged, more connected and more settled in the US they feel invested in wanting to play a role in the political process. So ... of this is immigration power against immigrants' history."

"Secondly, we have seen a shift of generations in terms of how the political process is being engaged. For many first generation Indian Americans who may have come here after 1965 a lot of the issues were very important like foreign policy. Now we are also seeing issues that affect us domestically here for example issues like the economy, education, healthcare, civil rights, immigration," Iyer said.

"And, thirdly, we have also heard about that there's something about this election specifically whether its the candidates that are running, whether its the climate of this country, that's really motivating people to come out to the polls and cast their votes and have their voices heard. So those are some of the factors and observations that we found in our world at South Asian scene," she added.

Source:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/USA/South_Asian_NGO_played_big_role_in_Obamas_victory/articleshow/3677367.cms


URL:http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/muslim-world-responds-to-obama-win-with-cautious-optimism---/d/967


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