Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Muslims' Message to Obama

By IOL Correspondents

MUSLIM CAPITALS – The world is full of anticipation and speculation about US President Barack Obama's long-awaited speech to the Muslim world, to be delivered from Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, June 4.

But should not Obama first listen to Muslims and their grievances before he develops a new strategy to win them over and improve America's badly-damaged relations with the Muslim world?

With that in mind,'s correspondents in several countries talked to common Muslims, not politicians or experts, about what they want, not expect, to hear from Obama.

Following are some samples from countries as far as Indonesia in the East, where Obama lived as a child, to Kenya in the black continent, the homeland of his father.

Shams Ali Runs a small medical store in Sultanabad, a slum town of Karachi

Actions speak louder than words. If Obama considers Muslims friends then be their friend. It is easy to say for him that US has great respect for Islam and Muslims, but it is not enough. There must be some quick actions to prove this contention.

The first issue I expect he would touch upon is the issue of Palestine, which is the mother of all problems, and major hurdle between US and the Muslim world. If this issue is resolved on the basis of give and take, I believe 50 per cent of hitches between the two sides would be resolved because the growing militancy in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world are linked to that issue.

Until and unless the Palestine issue, and other co-related disputes, including Afghanistan, and Iraq are there, Al Qaeda and its associates will have no problem in adding fresh blood to their folder.

The US policy makers must comprehend the fact that it cannot divide Muslims into moderates or extremists on the issue of Palestine.

The second thing I expect from him is to fulfill his promise and work to resolve the lingering Kashmir disputer between Pakistan and India. The two countries have suffered a lot due to this dispute, besides fighting three wars. Both countries are nuclear powers, and the region will remain under a nuclear threat unless this dispute is resolved.

Obama has a golden chance to work to resolve this dispute as the atmosphere in this regard is very much there especially after the two governments have understood that militancy is not in favor of either side.

Muhammed Nasr Abdulqader, 38 Pharmacist, West Bank

I would want to ask him why his administration utterly refrained from denouncing Israel for the rampage of murder and terror which Israel carried out in Gaza recently. Does he think that terror become kosher or benign when committed by Jewish hands?

A few years ago, the US asked us to organize general elections. And when Hamas won the elections, the US boycotted us, blockaded us and starved our people in ways unprecedented in modern history.

The US might argue that Hamas incurred this collective punishment because it refused to recognize Israel. Well, we now have an Israeli government that doesn’t recognize the very existence of the Palestinian people, a government that vows to continue building settlements on occupied territory. So, I would want to know why is it that the US is refraining from punishing Israel for its fascist and anti-peace policies?

I would like to ask Mr. Obama why is it that the US is constantly backing these Arab tyrants who are constantly persecuting their own people by denying them the most basic human rights and civil liberties. Does he really think that human rights and civil liberties in the Muslim world are incompatible with American political and economic interests in this region?

Does he think that embracing these thugs will endear Muslim masses to America?

Mohamed Shaaban, 57 Genitor in a major printing in Cairo

I really want the American President to increase financial aid to Egypt. I think our country is in bitter need of cash. The prices in the market are soaring to unprecedented levels. I can not remember the last time I bought beef for my children. We continue to cut on our diet day after day. Life can not go on forever. I know that the US gives lots of money to Egypt every year. But most of this money does not reach ordinary people on the streets.

At the same time, I want Mr. Obama to be serious about solving the conflict in Palestine. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed so far. Israel is such a brutal power that it has no mercy whatsoever. I see the images of death and destruction on TV and wonder why the world is passively watching.

Saiti Jambo Executive Director of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM)

From how we have suffered previously as Muslims, all over the world, Obama should assure the Muslim world that terrorism is an enemy to the US, but the US is not an enemy of Islam. We want him to assure us that Islam, just like other religions in the world will be accorded respect and fair treatment.

In Malawi, we have suffered quite immensely due to the negative attitude of the US towards Islam. We have had some of our Muslim brothers being arrested and flown out of the country in a very dehumanizing experience.

Relations between the Muslim world and the US government have not been quite cordial during the last ten years or beyond. The new leader should tell the Muslim world what is being worked out to heal the rift which has been there.

Mukhtar Adeel, 21 Student, India

President Obama must start his speech with a confession that United States of America has done a major blunder by invading Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. He must begin the act of conciliation rather than conflict by an acknowledgment of failure. There is no doubt that America has won the battle but lost the war both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any reform starts a sincere introspection. He must say unequivocally that America, being a civilized country, abhors all kinds of violence; be it State violence or unorganized violence. He must apologize and make it clear that America does not stand for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Both places represent American States’ ‘Talibanisation’. Both are symbols of American extremism. Obama should declare that any kind of extremism is bad.

Obama must make an announcement that he would commission a study titled Why Muslim World hates America? The question may sound rhetorical but it is still very much relevant. Muslim world does not hate Americans; it hates America’s foreign policy. He must make a distinction between the two: America and Americans! The entire Muslim world is witnessing cultural “Americanization” but still they don’t like America! It may come across as a paradox but it is true. Majority of Muslims would love to wear jeans, sip Coke and hog McDonald’s but they would still repulse at the very mention of America! It may sound strange but President Obama must take into account this curious case of love-hate relationship. He must initiate a dialogue with the Muslim world rather than dropping a bomb from B-52.

Abdullah al Shawish, 45 Unemployed, Gaza Strip

I ask Obama not to come and make this speech because, I think, that all the Arabs and Muslims especially the Palestinians are sure of the treason of his country to their rights. It was too clear during the Gaza war when the US tankers were loaded with heavy weapons while the US secretary of state was signing an agreement to fight us. I mean the agreement on fighting weapons smuggling.

Then, what will he say and what kind of good life he will promise? His country sponsors all wars against the Muslims all over the world. Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, rebellions in the Sudan, etc… So that, what kind of persuasive speech would he try to use in order to persuade Muslims that he wants to help them and compose alliance against terrorism with them.

I think that it was too clear when his predecessor announced it when he started his attacks against Afghanistan. He said that it is a crusader war. But, unfortunately, there is some Arab and Muslim leaders who are always bowing their necks to the American dictates and carry out what everything they ask them to do.

I am sure that the Egyptian president will hospitalize him in a very strange way, but of course. It is not the same way he hospitalizes the Gaza patients. Then, he will thank him after he had finished his address and see that Obama has prescribed the true and real treatment for the rotten wounds of the Arabs and Muslims.

Al-Hidai Ahmad, 44 Translator from Khartoum

I want Obama to make clear that Islam is not linked to terrorism; terrorism is terrorism anywhere!

He must address the reasons that create what they call terrorism.

There are organizations like Hezbollah [in Lebanon] and Hamas [in Palestine] that are fighting for liberty that should not be called terrorists; fighting an occupation is not terrorism.

Obama is talking about improving relations with the Muslim World: with Iran, Syria and Sudan.

We want him to specify what policies he will implement for improving relations with Sudan, for example, over Darfur.

We know the US has influence in the region. They must address all the elements involved in the Darfur conflict and not blame one side.

They put pressure on the Sudanese government but ignore the other factors involved like the rebel groups, neighboring countries and foreign influence.

We want him to spell out that he realizes the complexities of Darfur.

Adi Guno Editor in a media company, Jakarta

President Obama is very famous here. Many Indonesians know him because he had spent four years in Jakarta when he was in primary school. I hope there is psychological feeling between Obama and Indonesians. I don’t think he would neglect that he had been living among Indonesian Muslims here and I hope it can encourage him to pay favor with Muslims in making policies. So, we Muslims put hopes on his shoulder.

Although he is the leader of the superpower country, Obama is only one element of a big system. He alone could not change the American mindset toward Muslim world. So, I am a bit pessimistic that his upcoming speech in Cairo can immediately transform the way Americans think about Islam.

As a Muslim, I just want America and other western countries to fully understand Islam – not partially. Don’t blame Muslims for every terrorist incident. We wish better live and harmony among the world’s Muslim communities. Please stop dictating other countries and nations while you do what you do not want others to do. America must stop implementing double standards in the name of national interests. You must apply universal principle in dealing with other countries or nations.

Ahmed Hassan Billow, 24 Local resident of Wajir town, Kenya

he Muslim worlds’ image has been tainted by the western nations over the past few decades; I believe Obama should address it so as to forge peace in the world.

There has been a negative perception by the western people majority of who believe or see Islam as a volatile religion when of course it is not. Take for example the issue about terrorism which is most often linked with the Muslim world. This should not be the case any more. Islam is a peaceful religion and it should be respected. And not every western leader who opens his mouth talks about terrorism and Islam.

It is the high time Obama to address the raging conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians; the Americans have been in support of Israelis who are every maiming innocent civilian. Obama should address the American stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US seriousness in ending one of the longest middle-eastern crises. This means the Muslim world believes that the US is not serious about this crisis and president Obama should clarify this to the Muslim populations across the globe. June 3 2009

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