Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, June 2009
Muslims Want Actions, Not Words, from Obama
By Khalid Amayreh
PIC, [04/06/2009 - 12:23 AM ]
Occupied East Jerusalem
I sincerely believe that the vast majority of Muslims, including this writer, profoundly appreciate President Obama’s decision to address the Muslim world from Cairo. The American leader will speak from Cairo University, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the Arab world.
The symbolism surrounding Obama’s long-heralded speech is important. Words of good will, especially if they are sincere, can have an instantaneous positive effect on people’s sentiments. And I am completely certain that Muslims will meet good-will with good-will.
The Prophet of Islam teaches us to be kind to all people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “You shall not win the hearts of men with your money, but with kind manners you can,” he said.
Yet, symbolism alone is not enough, and Muslims in general had bitter memories of symbolic gestures coming from western powers.
Two centuries ago, Napoleon , who had just invaded Egypt, sought to endear himself to ordinary Egyptians. He issued proclamations casting himself as a great liberator of the people from Mamluk oppression, and praising the precepts of Islam.
However, his actions soon contradicted his words which exposed his imperialistic ambitions. The “great liberator” turned out to be a great deceiver, a great liar, and a great criminal.
Britain, too, followed the same pattern of behavior, betraying the Arabs-Muslims and stabbing them in the back. . The Balfour declaration of 1917, which led to the implanting of Israel in Palestine in 1948, represented the apex of western betrayal and perfidy toward Islam and Muslims.
This open wound (Israel) continues to trouble western-Muslim relations. This is why genuine, massive and extraordinary efforts must be made in order to resolve the Palestinian plight based on the principle of justice and honesty.
To begin with, it is important to point out that most Muslims, I would say 99.99 % of them, do want to have friendly and durable relations with the United States, relations based on parity, mutual respect, mutual interests and above all honesty.
Muslims are not inherently hostile to America. The claim that they are, which is often made ignorantly or maliciously, is simply not true.
Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Muslim students have received their college education in the United States. This writer, for example, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in Norman in 1981and obtained a Master degree in Journalism from the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale in 1983. We thank the American nation for having given us this opportunity.
More to the point, Muslims don’t really fear or reject America’s freedoms and civil liberties. The claim that they do is a sinister canard orchestrated by the Daniel Pipes and Pat Robertsons of this world, people who have vested interests in fostering hostility between Islam and the West.
In fact, I honestly believe that America’s chronic failure to pressure, or even press, its “Arab allies” to allow Arab masses to enjoy human rights and civil liberties is one of the key factors contributing to America’s negative image in the Arab-Muslim world.
Non the less, Muslims should be able to say “ahlan wasahlan” or welcome, to President Obama. We welcome him to our home as we harbor the hope that he will act on his proclamations, such as the need to be honest with Muslims.
In fact, one exaggerates little by saying that honesty summarizes what needs to be done in terms of rectifying America’s relations with the Muslim world. Honesty is paramount because without it nothing right can be done rightly. Moreover, ignoring honesty eventually leads to the accumulation and perpetuation of injustice which in turn leads to bitterness, tension and war.
President Obama is not an ignoramus, he is not a black George Bush. He knows the issues very well.
First of all, there is the enduring Palestinian plight, the central issue of contention between Islam and the Western world.
For many years, successive American administrations enabled Israel to evolve into a monstrously criminal entity that murders with impunity, steals with impunity and lies with impunity. America for decades, nonchalantly and almost indifferently, watched Israel rape the Palestinian people, kill and torment Palestinian men, women and children, destroy their homes, bulldoze their farms and narrow their horizons.
Palestinian towns and villages were morphed into de facto concentration camps where despair and bitterness were produced in great supplies. Israel gave us two choices, either to die a slow, agonizing death at the Jewish slaughter house, as has been the case since 1967, or die as suicide bombers in the streets of Israel. Israel never truly offered us a third dignified alternative, one that would respect our very humanity and allow us to live in dignity and freedom.
And when we went to the United Nations Security Council for justice, the U.S. used its veto power to kill resolutions that would have denounced Israel.
Needless to say, his unlimited and unrestricted support further encouraged Israel to kill more, destroy more and lie more.
In America, they say “give me freedom or give me death.” In Israel, however, we are told that we would have to convert to Judaism in order to enjoy God-given freedoms, or else we would have to be enslaved as “water carriers or wood hewers” in the service of the master race (the chosen people), or else we would be treated the same way the ancient Canaanite tribes were treated by the ancient Israelites-total genocide.
Mr. President, the Israeli occupation of our country is an enduring act of rape. Israel is raping our dignity, our freedom, our very existence. This happens every day, every hour, every minute.
You must have watched the recent genocidal onslaught in Gaza, the tormented coastal territory, which had been thoroughly starved by Israel on no account other than the fact that the Israeli government didn’t like the outcome of the Palestinian elections of 2006.
Israel killed our children in the hundreds, destroyed thousands of homes and rained White Phosphorus on our civilian neighborhoods. That was a Nazi act par excellence. Honesty, after all, requires that honest people call the spade a spade.
This is not Palestinian propaganda. Israel’s inventory of criminality and racism is too huge, so much so that one feels frustrated as to where to begin and where to end.
Hence, Muslims would like to see the US radically depart from its erstwhile embrace of Israel’s territorial expansion ambitions, a lebensraum by any other name.
Then there is the crucial issue of America’s enduring embrace of tyrannical Arab regimes that deny us the most basic human rights.
Do you know Mr. President that while people around the world are allowed to elect their leaders, we in the Arab world are denied that right?
America was supposed to be a shining city on a hill, but your country’s backing of dictatorial police states in our region is drastically incompatible with your declared ideals. Hypocrisy and moral duplicity can’t be instrumental in building an honest relationship between American and Muslims. This is true at the individual level as well among nations and states.
Hence, Muslims want to communicate to you the following message. Don’t support Arab dictators, don’t buy their mendacious excuses, don’t allow yourself to be duped by their twisted rationales for the absence of democracy in their countries.
Otherwise, America will lose the battle for the hearts and minds of 1.6 billion Muslims and will only have itself to blame.
Mr. President, good luck to you.
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