President Obama Pledges New Start with Muslims

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.

8 thoughts on “President Obama Pledges New Start with Muslims

  1. Salaam Alaikum,

    Yes! We have to be part of things. I feel it is our Islamic duty to make our societies better places.

    Too many people look to the well organised, but very insular Jewish Orthodox community as an example for how Muslims should be, I disagree with this as I feel we have very different goals. We are meant to spread the light of Islam, it is a gift for the whole of humanity.


  2. I was very happy with the way that things went down. I was particularly paying attention to Dr. Rick Warren’s prayer, which wasn’t too bad. And Rev. Lowery’s benediction was simply amazing. I loved the humor in it. 🙂

    But you’re definitely right… I think Muslims need to do a better job of being involved more in-depth, and not just on the surface. Especially now that we know that Obama is willing to listen and work closely with our community. There’s no way for our thoughts and ideas to be known without being actively involved in the process. There’s also no way of destroying the stereotype of a Muslim monolith without getting out there and showing people who we are and that we’re not all the same. Hopefully, our community will have the same fervor about working with our elected officials (particularly Obama) as they had about electing them in the first place.


  3. Salaam,

    One of my favorite lines was something like, “our patchwork heritage is a strength. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews, and non-believers.” I’m so happy that our new president gets it, that he understands. I can’t emphasize enough how refreshing that is after the last eight years.

    I think because of Gaza, his remarks about Muslims overseas won’t be received as well as they might otherwise have been. It’s too bad, I really believe that his remarks today are sincere, and that his silence on Gaza could even be interpreted as a critique of the Bush administration’s total support of Israel. They were saying on one of the news shows that Obama is eager to get involved with the mid-east situation and he wants to send an envoy over there ASAP.

    And you should definitely post about your admiration of the Obama ladies! I have to admit, I don’t love everything Michelle Obama wears, but she manages to always look stunning (and awake, I mean how much sleep can she possibly have gotten??), but at least she has a real sense of style (I have nothing against Laura Bush but…boring clothes. Sorry.) And those daughters are just adorable. They are such a cute family!


  4. I felt that there has been a tide of apathy against civic engagement across the whole population for a while now which has really been turned around in this election.

    I’d like to see Muslims and Americans in general become more engaged in civic and political matters, on all parts of the spectrum. A diverse, well engaged community will create a more robust democracy.


  5. Salam alaykum,

    Did it strike you that Obama’s message to the Muslim world in the inauguration speech, was brief?

    If there were 1200+ dead in a European country, you and I both know there would at least be a mention of that atrocity in the speech.

    I’m not convinced that any ‘new way forward’ is being proposed, other than in name and for rhetorical leverage.

    We hope that Obama may stand for the truth, but with the kind of staff he’s already brought on board, there is more concern, and little evidence to suggest anything new will be pursued.


  6. @ Shakir

    Wow, 24 hours hasn’t even passed and Obama has already failed huh?

    I for one am surprised he even made place for the Muslim world in his speech. It was his inauguration as the President of the USA, not President of the World, he’s not even obliged to go so far as he did.
    He’s not going to stand there and outline his plans to solve all the world’s ills and address every narrow concern each one of us has.

    Its just an inauguration, we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. To me, election night was more important, there’s no need to try and hype every situation up with pomp and ceremony. Anything worth doing will take time and effort.


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