Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, January 2009
Waiting for the Obama Promised CHANGE
By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi
ccun.org, January 17, 2009
The Muslim world has no illusions that the new US president is going to be a ‘liberator’ for the dieing, war-prone people around the glob. People know it well, he does not have ‘Aladdin’s stick’ with him nor does he belong to an imaginary ‘superman’ category. But they rightly hope, he will be more fair and even-handed when it comes to the conflicts, and end the tension that started between Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Washington under the Bush brigade.
Americans have made a historic election and some 130 million voters of them flocking to polling stations throughout the country cast their votes. "Change, we need" Obama's rousing election slogan, has become the number one reason for countless voters to vote for the first black president in the US history.
Forty-one years ago the US civil right activist Martin Luther King had a dream of an America where men and women would be judged not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character. And now what America has done is turned that dream into a reality. In this time of crises, a man like Barak Hussein Obama can help in bringing people from different origins close to each others. This has been the hope to which Muslims from around the world have heartedly supported and those in the United States have largely voted him.
Obama's oath-taking as the 44th United States president, the first Afro-American man, is a miracle in itself. For, he was born as a son of a Kenyan Muslim and a white woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known. In contrast, his background and down-to-earth speech during the election campaigns, created a glimmer of hope about the different path he might take from the previous administrations in tackling burning issues that will affect the American society and the world alike.
From universal health care, education and tax breaks people felt Obama has it all under control and promises a better vision for settling outstanding issues than Bush-folk-McCain. Also, his childhood gave him a rare opportunity to see how people all over the world live. This is a huge advantage and will give him an edge when it comes to dealing with people of all backgrounds. Things won't be easy for him. He carries a monumental load of expectations from not only Americans of all political stripes but also the world.
The 47-year-old president Obama's life tells a different story from all previous presidents of America. His multi-racial origins have mirrored the salad bowl of America. He was born on August 14, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Kenyan father Barack (or Mubarak) Hussein Obama, Sr., and a white mother in the United States of America.
Later Obama's mother married an Indonesian oil executive when Obama was six. The whole family then moved to the Southeast Asian country. He eventually returned to Hawaii for high school and stayed with his grandparents.
As he says in his book, 'Dreams From My Father', being rooted in both black culture and white culture, has helped him gain an expansive and all-inclusive vision he could bring to politics later. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, Obama was "possessed with a crazy idea -- that I would work at a grassroots level to bring about change." Now the real challenge is waiting to bring about the change he has been dreaming.
Much of Arab world watched the US elections with interest and a high level of conviction that the outcome will give them a crystal ball view into the future of relations between their countries and the United States of America. They are very much hopeful that he will speed up efforts to achieve peace, particularly since a resolution to the Palestinian problem and the Israeli-Arab conflict is a key to world peace.
Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, hoped the Democrat (Obama) would promote "peace and stability" in the region around Afghanistan; many of the Pakistanis are rather wishful to see an US withdrawal from Afghanistan during Obama’s tenure in the White House.
Mahmood Abbas, the Palestinian president, urged Obama to speed up efforts to reach an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement. Meanwhile, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and now facing the harshest aggression from Israel, urged Obama to learn from the "mistakes" of previous US administrations in dealing with the Muslim and Arab worlds.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, congratulated Obama on his election victory, saying it took the world into a "new era", while the Taliban have observed a “wait and see” policy.
To me Obama's abode in the White House itself is a major, major change in the 21st century world. As far as US foreign policy is concerned I don't expect there will be any noticeable changes overnight. And there won't be any immediate disengagement while dealing with Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Pakistan or Afghan issues because a great deal is at stake for America now. What I am impressed with is that Obama’s winning as President of America shows just how far America has come in terms of racial equality!
No doubt, Obama has come to power at a time when the United States of America is facing major financial, political and social crises with its very existence and reputation as the sole superpower at stake. The main reason for this is the eight years of misrule by outgoing President George W Bush. In fact, it was the ‘Dark Age’ in the history of the United States of America. So, change in power has not been an option for the US, but a necessity because if the same policies pursued by the Bush-gang are continued any longer, it would have consequences for the very foundation of the American nation.
To briefly put the Muslims’ expectation let me add a few sentences from a New-year good-will letter sent to Barack Obama by former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad. He wrote: ‘I did not vote for you in the Presidential election because I am Malaysian. But I consider myself one of your constituents because what you do or say will affect me and my country as well. I welcome your promise for change. Certainly your country, the United States of America needs a lot of changes...’
M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is editor of Eastern Crescent and director of the Mumbai based Markazul Ma'arif Education and Research Centre. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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