You Cannot Believe Without Questioning

There is no doubt that Barack Obama dominated the first Presidential debate against John McCain. Obama was confident in his responses and he completely hammered McCain with a solid plan for improving the U.S. economy, while McCain looked tense and countered with unsubstantial responses. Most notably, perhaps, was how McCain didn’t make eye contact with Obama once, which I interpret as being incredibly disrespectful and immature. As other political commentators and analysts have pointed out, McCain’s debating style personalizes the differences between both candidates. In other words, by not making eye contact or addressing Obama directly, McCain reaffirms his self-perceived dominance over Obama, but he also alludes to Obama being his “opponent” (or even “enemy” according to the Bush Doctrine’s your-either-with-me-or-against-me sermon). Obama, on the other hand, looked at McCain directly and even addressed him by his first name, “John.” Obama even looked into the camera to address the viewers, which I believe earned him a significant boost in the debate.

But there are issues to discuss and question, especially for the Muslim community. There can be no argument that Muslim-Americans have been stigmatized ever since September 11th, but even more so after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. When both candidates talk about the “spirit of national unity” after September 11th, this may be true for most Americans, but it is certainly not true for the Muslim community. There have been over 3,000 reported incidents regarding discriminatory acts, hate crimes, and prejudice towards Muslim-Americans, and neither of the candidates have spoken about it. Obama seemed to allude to it during the debate when he mentioned the world’s perception of American has changed significantly as a result of the wars, but he didn’t mention the repercussions Muslim-Americans have experienced and still endure.

When it comes to Iran, Obama is right in his approach of strong diplomacy, while McCain wants to paint Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel and the West. While Obama pointed out that Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not the most powerful man in Iran, he didn’t point out another key fact and that is this: Ahmadinejad never said “wipe Israel off the map.” This is an over-used slogan for war – you repeat it enough times, it becomes true. The Guardian’s article “Lost in Translation” cites four different translations – which include professors, the BBC news network, the New York Times, and even the often anti-Islamic and pro-Israel news station called MEMRI – and none of the translations contain the word for “map.” What Ahmadinejad actually said was, “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The Iranian President was clearly referring to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, which has created a lot of Arab and Muslim bitterness and antagonism towards Israel and the West. This is an extremely important issue that the West needs to understand if they are truly interested in establishing peace in the Muslim world. Obama seems more likely to acknowledge this issue, while McCain seems determined on attacking Iran since its acquisition of Nuclear Weapons is such an “existential threat.” I wonder if McCain bothers to think about how many countries in the world, especially Muslim countries, feel threatened by the U.S. possessing nuclear weapons. I do not support Ahmadinejad or any of his views, but the truth of the matter is that the U.S. has no right to invade or bomb Iran. I feel it would serve a great benefit to both candidates, as well as to the people of the world, if they actually watched Ahmadinejad’s interview with NBC news anchor, Brian Williams.

When the issue of Pakistan came into the picture, McCain accused Obama of wanting to invade the country. “You don’t invade an ally,” McCain said, “You don’t do that.” Obama responded and stated, “No one said anything about invading Pakistan.” This may seem to debunk McCain’s accusation, but Obama continued and said that there needs to be more U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan since Al-Qaeda forces are “in those mountains.” He also said that if Pakistan was not willing to cooperate, then the U.S. would intervene and take out Al-Qaeda. The problem with this tactic is that it contradicts Obama’s foreign policy with Iran. Obama has stated before that he will hold a congregation of all the Muslim leaders and discuss with them what needs to be done. Communication is essential in building strong alliances, and lack of communication is the reason why there is so much tension between the East and West. And yet, despite his aspirations for strong diplomacy, Obama’s statements towards Pakistan are hostile and accusatory. His tone and choice of words vilify Pakistan, which unnerves Pakistanis and generates suspicions about Obama’s intentions. Pakistan has lost a lot of soldiers while combating extremist factions and doing America’s dirty work. Pakistan has been disrespected by the American press numerous times, including in a political cartoon where a dog was labeled “Pakistan.” Every Pakistani knows how huge of an insult “dog” is.

What troubles me is when I see my fellow Muslims reducing themselves to the exhaustive “terrorism” rhetoric. “Terrorism” is a word used by contemporary politicians and the media to describe only one group of people: Muslims. Consider the Virginia Tech shooting, or the Amish school shooting in 2006, or the Church shooting in Missouri, or the Omaha mall shooting – were the perpetrators ever called “terrorists”? What about Ariel Sharon, who was responsible for massacring thousands of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps? What about George W. Bush who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S., Iraqi, and Afghan causalities? Despite how they terrorized people, the answer is “no,” they are not called terrorists. But if they were Muslim, don’t you believe the media would pounce on that and label them “terrorists?” Obama should not be concerned with putting pressure on the Pakistanis or threatening to attack them, but instead, he should be focusing on building an alliance with them and understanding why the extremist factions are opposing Pakistani leadership. These extremist groups identify with the Palestinian and Iraqi struggles, and therefore they oppose any affiliation or cooperation with the United States because the U.S. government funds the Israeli military and also has soldiers stationed in Islamic countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also reports that President Bush secretly approved orders in July of 2008 to permit American Special Operations to carry out ground assaults in Pakistan without approval from the Pakistani government. Without taking these issues into consideration, neither Obama nor McCain will fully understand why violence ensues in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I agree with most of Obama’s policies, including his policy on cutting taxes for the middle class, and making college and health care affordable for citizens, but this doesn’t mean that I cannot criticize him. I know there are a lot of Muslims who support Obama, but you shouldn’t hesitate to say he is wrong on certain issues like Pakistan. Don’t be afraid to disagree – no one is perfect, and that includes politicians and world leaders. I will not blindly follow someone, and no one else should. For eight years, we have been criticizing the Bush administration and calling those who support him as blind followers, so the last thing we want ourselves to become is blind followers of Obama. Like everything in life, we cannot believe in something unless we ask the right questions first.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” – Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Salaam/Peace

~ Broken Mystic~

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3 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    September 29, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Obama is turning out to be The Big Let-Down of ’08.
    Obama kept insinuating that He is The Second Coming but every time we’ve held our breaths waiting for him to change water into wine, we’ve been disappointed. Obama kept telling us to ‘tune in next week!’ and he never delivers, the miracle never comes. There is nothing there.
    Obama’s has a problem with clarity. I have systematically studied both his autobiographies and I still don’t know what kind of man I’m dealing with. When he was first showcased on TV, my interest was aroused. I used to find Obama enigmatic, but now he just comes off as vacuous, empty.
    Obama’s two books address the questions of “Journey of Discovery to Where?” and “Who Am I?” We can all relate to such pondering. But Obama does not give us an answer. If he has found the answer since publishing those two books two years ago then he hasn’t told us yet.
    McCain has been on a longer and harder personal journey. There can be nothing more extreme than surviving daily torture for five years. Can you imagine that? To be beaten day-in and day-out, starved, your hands and legs bound by chains? McCain already knows what he can take, and humbly knows where he breaks. Every man and woman has a breaking point. It is very human. McCain already knows his, even though he held out as long as he could.
    What trials or stories of human devastation has Obama endured? I can’t imagine being Black in America is an easy thing. But Obama was raised in Polynesia by white grandparents and then went on to Harvard, community service, the Senate, and now the presidency. Obama’s journey seems to have been very easy. His skin color opened all the right doors for him instead of slamming them shut. Obama didn’t march against segregation. Obama didn’t fight for affirmative action. He planted no tree. He carried no water for that tree. Obama has just come along and picked the fruits. That is easy street. This is not a great American story. This is not a triumph of will over adversity. This is a story of baby-boomer entitlement. This is the story of the yuppy next door. These stories are a dime a dozen on aisle 3 at Whole Foods.
    You may agree or disagree with McCain but at least you know where he stands. He has a long track record to judge him by. McCain has a long list of hits and misses. He has made mistakes (like us all) but that is because he had been trying to do things and change things all his life. Obama markets himself as the candidate with an unblemished record, but that is only because he doesn’t have a record. We have nothing to judge Obama by. All he gives us is his word and we are supposed to put all our trust in his future promises. But these promises keep changing: Obama has produced two contradictory promises on Iraq, two contradictory promises on NAFTA, and two contradictory promises on taxes. Are we supposed to judge him by the original promise he made, or by his most recent one? The candidate who flows with the changing winds of polls is the lightweight. That much we know.
    I feel very embarrassed for buying into the Obama phenomena. Maybe now that the weather is changing I see things in a new light. I feel sheepish for falling for the marketing pitch. Where do I go to get a refund?
    I think that many voters like me are looking for clarity in our next president. I feel I know what kind of man McCain is, and that I can trust him. McCain gets my vote.

  2. maji6 said,

    September 30, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    I wouldnt pin so much hope on Obama. Bush might want to destroy iran with bombs Obama will jus support the commites etc which he already has in Iran which will seek to try destroy Iran from the Inside like wood worm. At the end of the day the goal is just to destroy the power of Arab nations and if that means causing chaos inside the country putting “Moderte Muslims against Muslims” then that is what will be done.

    No One in the west wants to see strong ISlamic states..they have even decided to attack the “militants” in Pakistan, Who are the militants in Pakistan? those that pray 5 times a day according to the west are “militants”.

    Ma salams

  3. Hamad said,

    October 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Maji6 – who are the ‘commites’ in Iran?

    At least Obama can pronounce ‘Pakistan’ correctly! But that’s besides the point.

    I think that we Pakistanis (or Muslims) really underestimate the power of the Pakistani Taleban (I use it as an umbrella term for Muslim militants in Pakistan). Remember that Benazir Bhutto paid the ultimate price for opposing Islamist militancy in Pakistan. Remember the Marriott bombing in Islamabad? The NWFP is having its culture and security rooted out by the mullahs. In fact, I just read on the BBC that Pakistani refugees were going into Afghanistan – ever thought that would happen?

    I think that a strong democratic government in Pakistan can clean up the problems in Waziristan, but if the Taleban and Al-Qaida are hanging out there, then we should go in and take them out, period. They are criminals and deserve their day in court, whether for 9/11 or the Bhutto assassination.
    I also think that alongside that, we should help Pakistan strengthen its democratic institutions, especially education. But thats what I think.

    What does Obama think? I am not very sure, but judging from what he keeps stating, I think he will be very prudent about using military force inside Pakistan. I think he has much more wisdom than that.

    Eid Mubarak!


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