Whoever Wins the White House the News for Muslims is not Good

As these lines are being written, on the eve of the voting day, November 6, Americans are just hours away from re-electing Barack Obama or electing his rival, Mitt Romney, to the most powerful office in the world.

The American presidential election holds a uniquely distinct place in the annals of our contemporary world. Why it’s so is no mystery. US is the most powerful country in the world, and its policies-domestic or external-not only influence the course of its history but also impact the course of history in the rest of the world. The election of a president-or his re-election-therefore becomes an event of global importance.

As the world has its eyes glued to US to see which one of the two political combatants finally makes it to the White House, it’s a moment to not only hold one’s breath but also to take stock of what the two candidates have said during a long and bitterly contested campaign, and how could one draw inferences for the impending course of US policies in the world, in the light of what these two have said or projected in the course of their campaigns.

Political pundits are at one that this presidential election is going to establish a new -and potentially dangerous-landmark in terms of money spent by the two candidates to campaign and project themselves. Conservative estimates put the amount of money splurged on the contest at more than 2 billion dollars. Add the money spent by those running for the Senate, the House of Representatives and Governors, and the figure climbs up to more than 5 billion dollars-an exorbitant sum even by American standards.

The surfeit of money has made it convenient for both candidates to buy huge amounts of time on television for their projection and for lambasting the rival in what has been a free-for-all campaign in terms of the venom injected in it to portray the ‘other party’ in most vile and vituperative colours. Both Obama and Romney have spent more time on decrying each other than on focusing their attention-and that of the American people-on issues that matter, in so far as shaping American policies at home and abroad is concerned.

The bitter and rancorous campaign-pundits agree-has brought to surface much of that hatred and animosity which has been working into the American minds the past 4 years of the Obama presidency. Recent surveys, made public as the presidential campaign unfolded and gathered more and more mass, all converge on one highly disturbing point: that fault lines-of racial prejudice, of colour distinction et al-running across the American strata have accentuated greatly in the 4 years that Obama has been in the White House. US, today, is a more sharply divided country than ever before, according to public opinion surveys and researches done on the subject.

Race seems to have become a dominant theme in the American discourse; the raison d’etre of it, the so-called catalyst of this evolving trend, is, of course, the coloured man occupying the White House. The racial polarity-increased as it is in the past years-could well influence the outcome of the vote, on November 6, according to many pundits and academics.

It was said, in the euphoria triggered by Barack Obama’s election to the White House, in 2008, that it was going to usher in a “post-racist” era in US. That clearly hasn’t happened. The outcome of a coloured man’s occupation of the Oval Office has just been the opposite: it hasn’t added to harmony but fed the paranoia of the racist bigots against black people.

A study done by researchers at Stanford University, University of Chicago and University of Michigan-and commissioned by the Associated Press on the racial issue has just been released and its findings make a disturbing reading. The research found that “Anti-black sentiment seems to have increased slightly in America over the course of Mr. Obama’s term and this sentiment may be shaping evaluations of (his) presidency as well as the likelihood that individuals will vote for him in 2012.”

Another recent survey, done of the Internet to gauge the sentiment across US on attitudes towards black people, reached the finding that 51 % of Americans expressed “explicit” anti-black attitudes. A similar study done in 2008, on the other hand, had found 48 % of White Americans harbouring racist attitudes against the blacks. So Obama’s 4 years in the White House have, obviously, contributed to exacerbating racial prejudice across the country against the blacks.

However, American racists and bigots don’t just harbour anti-black sentiments associated with Obama but also a deep hatred of Muslims.

Obama’s loud and vociferous protestations-repeated ad nauseam by him over the last 4 years-that he is not a Muslim but a practising Christian have apparently had no impact on the racists. A recent Pew Poll found that only 49 %of American voters-less than half of the total-know that Obama is Christian, while 17 % believe he’s a Muslim, in spite of his own protestations to the contrary. Among those professing to be Republican, 30 % believe Obama is a Muslim; this is double the number from 2008, according to the Pew findings.

Bracketing Obama with Muslims-and on the basis of hat unleashing a vitriolic campaign against him and his alleged faith or beliefs-is part of a wider anti-Muslim hate campaign in US. According to an up-to-date finding by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks extremism in US, anti-Muslim hate groups have tripled to 30 in 2012, from 10 in 2011. This should be an eye-opener to not only American Muslims but Muslims all over the world. It proves, beyond doubt, that anti-Muslim sentiment-given a hefty boost since the cataclysmic 9/11-is dictating a course that fulfils the prophecy of a ‘clash of civilizations’ focused on Muslims.

But it isn’t just cerebral hatred against Muslims that seems to be shaping the agenda of those arrayed against Obama; there’s a sinister purpose also endemic to this hate campaign. The basic interest of bigots and racists beating their drums against Obama’s religious or faith affiliation is to force him into adopting and pursuing policies categorically aimed at undermining Muslim interest, not just in America, but throughout the world.

Whether forced into a corner by his relentless nemeses, or dictated by his own convictions, Obama hasn’t been disappointing to those doubting his credentials that he isn’t Muslim or Muslim-friendly.

The Obama years in the Oval Office, so far, have been a saga of policies calculated to thwart any Muslim ambitions, or hopes, that US under Obama would follow a course different than his awkward predecessor, George W. Bush, vis-à-vis the Muslim world.

Obama had started his stint with high expectations pinned on him by Muslims, in particular. His campaign promises, of 2008, to put an end to Bush’s transparently anti-Muslim policies and inject a healthy understanding of Islamic issues in US foreign policy had uplifted Muslims across the globe. His forthright address to the Muslim world, from the pulpit of the Cairo University, within months of winning the White House, had also whetted the Muslim appetite for a more balanced and nuanced US policy in relation to Muslim interests and priorities.

However, Obama’s track record in office has so far been one of deep disappointment for Muslims and Muslim causes. Obama, perhaps mindful of the backlash from his antagonists and detractors, has been giving nothing but a short-shrift to Muslims, if not deliberately pursuing policies calculated to be hostile to Muslims.

Starting from his abysmal failure to keep an innocuous promise like closing down the notorious and ignoble Guantanamo concentration camp for Muslims-to which he pledged himself on his first day in office-Obama has heaped one disappointment over another for the world Muslims.

The most glaring failure of Obama, which stands out like a sore thumb to the Muslims-is in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute to the resolution of which he had made a commitment in the course of his bid for the White House in 2008. Four years down the road, one only sees the debris of any peace plan between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Obama never, really, showed any backbone to stand up to the Zionists ruling the roost of his policy-or lack of it-on the peace process, which soon ran out of life under him. On the contrary, he succumbed, on more occasions than one, to blatant Zionist pressure and, even worse, to relentless arm-twisting by a war-mongering Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish Israeli leader whose life-long agenda is to deny statehood to the Palestinians and steal as much of their land as possible. Obama has been complicit in Netanyahu’s scheme of building more and more settlements on the Palestinian lands.

Hostility to Muslim interests and lives is most loudly pronounced in the relentless targeting of Pakistani civilians-men, women and children-under the lethal drone attacks that have led to thousands of casualties in the years since Obama came to power. He takes pride in ordering, personally, targeted killings of individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan or wherever. Little wonder that a recent American survey found 90 % of Pakistanis surveyed about their preference in the US election in support of Romney over Obama for president.

But Romney, whose Mormon faith doesn’t bother the American electorate ( a Pew survey determined that 62 per cent of Americans have no issue with Romney over his faith, while they doubt Obama’s credentials) is no improvement over Obama, as far as Muslim causes or interests are concerned.

Romney started his presidential campaign by first going to Israel and seek the blessings of Netanyahu and his Zionists. In the course of his bitter and vituperative campaign, vis-à-vis Obama, Romney spared no opportunity to insist that Israel was the apple of his eye and he would go to any extent to protect Israeli interests, including Netanyahu’s threat to unleash terror against Iran.

Obama couldn’t afford to be seen any less a crusader on behalf of Israel-against Iran or any other Muslims-and repeatedly assured his Israeli and Zionists friends that he, too, wouldn’t shirk from any initiative to safeguard Israel’s policy of expansionism. Obama didn’t let any opportunity go unutilised to insist that he was the architect of what he claimed with pride as the most punishing sanctions imposed on Iran under his watch.

By the same token, Obama has been listing the killing of Osama bin Laden as his greatest foreign policy achievement in office. On top of it, he pulled no punches to assure his supporters and the American people that he would chase ‘Islamic terrorists’ anywhere in the world. He has been listing the end of the Iraqi adventure as a major plus in his achievements and insisting that the Taliban are on the run in Afghanistan because of his policies.

Not to be left behind, Romney has been singing his own anti-Muslim  chorus and beating his chest, in every debate or discussion with Obama over the rise of ‘Islamist terror.’ One hasn’t heard even one phrase from him in reference to the Palestinians, or their right to state-hood, in the plethora of campaign speeches made by him. By contrast, he has been tilting at all and every windmill to market and parade his unflinching commitment to Israel and Israeli interests.

So, it shouldn’t matter much to Muslims, in US, or anywhere else in the world, who comes out on top from the contest on November 6. US attitudes and policies in relation to Muslims and Islamic world would remain mired in the abyss of short-sightedness and myopia that was in ample display during the long and bitterly-contested campaign for the White House. It will be business as usual, with Muslims at the receiving end of unabashedly hostile American policies. Anti-Muslim sentiments and prejudices are, sadly, destined to hold sway over any occupant of the Oval Office for the foreseeable future.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2012 on page no. 18

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