On the other side of the coast, I had the pleasure of watching the inauguration live. I’ve written before about the special significance this election has for me. But this is not just my moment, millions of other shared in the joy that America has delivered on its promise. I was moved during a number of moments during the ceremony. One of the things that moved me was the acknowledgment of America’s past and the representation of people of color. I felt that my faith and identity were acknowledged, where even the prayers were inclusive. It was a moment of hope where people of all faiths were able to feel part of. And can I say that the three special ladies in President Obama’s life looked absolutely stunning!! But this post is not about my admiration of Michelle Obama’s style or my adoration of those beautiful young ladies. Rather, this post is about a hopeful message the President gave about renewing the relationship between America and the Muslim world.
The Washington post reported on it in today’s article, Obama pledges new start with Muslims
President Barack Obama promised a new start with the Muslim world in his inauguration address on Tuesday.
“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” said Obama, who became the first black president of the United States.
The first Muslim to be elected to Congress, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, said Obama’s words were an important signal of good will to Muslims in the United States as well as the rest of the world.
“I do believe it could undermine recruiting for al Qaeda,” he told Reuters, because “their message depends on trying to demonize the United States as a country that is somehow hostile to Islam and the Muslim world.”
Ellison said Obama’s outreach would make it hard for al Qaeda to sustain its anti-American message.
Many Muslims are already excited about Obama, he said.
“If you were to go to Damascus, or Cairo, or Jerusalem today, you could find an Obama tee shirt. People are excited about the possibilities for what this means around the globe.”
I’ve read elsewhere that there was a letter published Tuesday signed by a few hundred Muslims with advise on building a positive relationship with Muslims throughout the world. I’m sure you all remember Arsalan Iftikhar’s Letter to Obama on the Muslim World :
First of all, as one of more than 66 million Americans of all races, religions and ethnicities who voted for you, your electoral victory was one of the proudest moments of our collective lives.
As our American political history witnessed the magnitude of our nation’s first African-American president, our society was also able to collectively (and finally) exhale, knowing that the mailbox at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would now read “Obama” instead of “Bush.”
With hardly a moment’s rest, as you transition toward Inauguration Day, our nation (and the rest of the world) will not wait for long before seeking your leadership on many pressing global issues.
From an economic recessionary mess to a perpetually broken health care system with 46 million American neighbors as uninsured casualties, your soon-to-be administration will face some monumental domestic and foreign policy issues that will affect us for generations.
From an ill-conceived war in Iraq to an oft-forgotten war in Afghanistan, from global flashpoints from Tel Aviv to Islamabad, your diplomatic and political interaction with the Muslim world may decide the success (or failure) of your foreign policy legacy.
Your unenviable task will be to undo the catastrophic policies of George W. Bush and his fellow neoconservative ideologues, facing the specter of al Qaeda’s sinister terrorism while undertaking public diplomacy efforts addressing anti-Americanism around the world.
Similarly, since the tragedy of September 11, the global Muslim community has continued its own daunting task of undoing catastrophic damage caused by Osama bin Laden and his creepy terrorist cronies.
From global debates on religious extremism broadcast on BBC World Television to global interfaith outreach with the Vatican, we Muslims are in the midst of our own internal dialogue condemning terrorism and reclaiming the mantle of Islam from the rusted claws of dinosaur extremists.
Like the commentary by Nafees A. Syed stated, Candidates should seek votes of Muslim-Americans, they should seek the insight of American Muslims on policy issues. But Muslims will have to recognize that we can not only rely upon protest politics. We have to have Muslims willing to advise and work with administrations, if we are going to effect change. It is not just by voting that we are heard, but through collective organization, putting our money where our mouth is, and making sure our voice is heard. In essence, we have to think about civic engagement. We can’t condemn those Muslims who choose to work in government. We have to look at the effects we can have in city, state, and national government. There are Muslims who believe this to be diametrically opposed to their faith, but they must realize that by opting out of politics they have indeed supported secularization of their communities and societies. American Muslims need to live up to our promise as being able to speak on behalf of the voiceless and effecting change in the most powerful nation in the world. I believe the first step is by getting our communities together and establishing institutions that build solid foundations and encourage civic engagement. So many Muslims in America felt deflated after the devastating invasion of Gaza. But Islam is truly an optimistic religion, where we live our lives in hope and not in fear. This is an opportune moment to start anew, so that one day will can actually do something to make sure that America stands up and does the right thing.