Saturday, November 15, 2008

An Open letter to Barack Obama

Open letter to Barack Obama
Aijaz Zaka Syed

Dear Mr. Obama,

Salaam, I am not sure if this will ever pass your eyes. At a time when the whole world is excited about your landmark election, this is likely to be dismissed as just another outpouring of emotions from the Middle East. But write I must. And I hope to God it does find its way to your table. Even if it doesn't, I'll at least have the consolation of having tried to persuade you what the world, especially the Middle East, expects from you and what a great opportunity you have of changing it for the better.

I may be ridiculed for my naïve idealism and for daring to hope the agenda of the reigning superpower could be influenced by individuals sitting thousands of miles away in Dubai. But there's no harm in trying, is there? Besides, after your own incredible victory riding on a wave of idealism and message of hope, no one can ever suggest idealism doesn't work. You wouldn't be where you are today without idealism and faith and the incredible power of dreams. It's this power that can take a "skinny kid with a funny name" to White House. By now you must be conscious of the impossibly high expectations the Americans and the rest of the world have of you.

These hopes are only natural considering what the world has been through over the past eight years under the current incumbent. Your predecessor has somehow managed to gang up the whole world against America, a feat that eluded even Richard Nixon. From the total destruction of Iraq to the shame of Abu Ghraib, from spying on Americans to abduction of innocents by CIA, and from dumping hundreds of civilians as enemy combatants down the hole called the Guantanamo Bay, this administration has never been short on ever-new ideas of violating human dignity.

But to give your predecessor his due, he's been equally indifferent to the business of governance at home. So while New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, was being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the leader of the free world went biking. Ditto the current economic crisis. W. slept while the Wall Street burned.

Dear Mr. Obama, the Americans have elected you hoping you could put out the Bush fires. They believe you could clear this spectacular mess.

By electing you they have in one stroke changed global perceptions about America, restoring the world's faith in the land of the free.

Because at heart we are all Americans and love America and all that it stands for - or once stood for. Your election proves, as you argued in the thrilling election night speech in Chicago, that all things are possible inAmerica. But if your victory was groundbreaking, the hopes and expectations it has generated in and outsideAmerica and challenges you face now are equally formidable.

If anyone can meet these daunting tasks confronting America and the world at large, it's you. Your unusual life story is a celebration of the audacity of hope. You are after all the blessed one. Barack in Arabic, as you must know, means blessing. So perhaps there's a design in your being chosen for this most difficult of all jobs. I am sure you can, and will, successfully negotiate your great country through the minefield of difficult times ahead.

But your responsibility does not end with America. There's a message in the frenzied adulation for you and celebrations around the world over your victory: The world sees you as its leader and expects leadership from you.

Which is why it's heartening to see you move with remarkable alacrity to put America back on track. Even though you are yet to formally take over from Bush, you already have your team in place and are taking steps to reverse the divisive and most disastrous policies of this administration.

The world is already delighted by your decision to shut the Guantanamo Bay and either free the detainees or try them in the US courts. This is something that your heroes Lincoln, Emerson and King would all approve. But in all honesty, most of those men at the Bay have already suffered enough for crimes they did not commit.

Did you know that one of them, Omar Khadr, was captured in Afghanistan during the US invasion in 2001 when he was only 15? He has spent six years of his life in a hole. His crime? Being the son of parents who had been working in Afghanistan. There are hundreds of Omar Khadrs out there. And all of them deserve justice.

Others who demand your attention are Palestinians. They too have been paying for crimes they did not commit for nearly seven decades now. Or rather, they've been paying for someone else's crimes. The Palestinians are being victimized for Europe's crimes against Jews, as Ahmadinejad says. Today, prisoners in their own land and their ghettos, they are fighting for survival, literally! Throughout your campaign, you've talked of hope and change and America believed in you. It has embraced you because it knows it needs someone like you to bring it the change it badly needs.

Mr. Obama, we in the Middle East believe in you too. I know there are some who are already nervous about your choice for the White House chief of staff. But I would rather look at the big picture. A Jewish chief of staff doesn't necessarily mean you are anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. What matters is the general direction and outcome of your policies.

I still believe that if anyone can bring hope and change to the world's most volatile region, it's you. With your unusual background, representing both Christianity and Islam, both black and white and both East and West, you are uniquely placed to bring hope and change to the region that has been the cradle of civilizations and three great faiths. And you must begin this mission right away, before you get used to power; or power and its compulsions get the better of you. The Middle East, more specifically Palestine, is the key to world peace. From the war in Iraq to militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, everything is linked to Palestine. You bring peace to the Middle East and the world will find its peace. You change the Middle East and you'll change the world.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.