Muslims for Barack Obama? - It May Be Too Early To Tell!
by Sheila Musaji
originally posted 4/6/07, 2/13/08, 11/08, 1/27/09
Barack Obama has been criticized for a lot of things. He’s not black enough for some - not Christian enough for some. There was a smear campaign over his brief childhood attendance at an Indonesian Madrassa (school). The ever vigilant Robert Spencer accused him of being a Muslim apostate. Some have accused him of being a “radical, ideological Muslim”, and some have accused him of being a Muslim who is concealing his true faith. These are attacks on his perceived connection with Islam (his father was a Muslim), and have nothing to do with his character or the political positions he might hold.
The Muslim Observer has a poll on who is the best candidate for President of the U.S., and so far Barack Obama is leading. On the new site United Muslims there is a group listed called Muslims for Barack Obama which makes the following statement: “He’s not just a change from George W. Bush, he’s a change from the emerging crop of Democratic presidential nominees, all of whom are still equivocating on the war in Iraq. Obama is the only candidate who was on the correct side from the beginning, and unlike most politicians, understands our concerns because of his unique background. Through this group, we hope to work Muslim Democrats to ensure Obama gets the party nomination, and then work hard to get out the vote in key districts throughout America.”
What do we actually know about Barack Obama?
In the current debate in Congress about cutting off funding fo the Iraq war, he seems to be unwilling to hold firmly to his original anti-war stance. He said: “I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground,” he told the Associated Press, adding: “I don’t think we can muster at this point a majority of Senate Democrats or Republicans to vote for a cutoff of funding.”
At the recent AIPAC Conference Obama said: “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” and he also said: “I am pro-Israel.” According to another source he also said: “Israel is our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy.” and “we must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs.” and he called Iran “one of the greatest threats to the United States, to Israel, and world peace.” While advocating “tough” diplomacy with Iran he confirmed that “we should take no option, including military action, off the table.” (Full text of Obama’s speech at AIPAC.)
In an interview with Haaretz Obama said: “My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.”
He told the New York Sun “The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.”
In Congress Obama has been active in Immigration Reform including supporting the border fence. He has worked to limit the influence of lobbies, and for election reform. He is for universal health care and is pro choice.
At this point in time, I am also unsure about where he stands on Israel-Palestine, and on further sanctions, or a possible war with Iran. I hope that the Muslim community will look carefully at all the candidates and their actual record and statements before jumping on the bandwagon for any candidate. It helps to remember that they are first and foremost politicians, and that it won’t be the first time that our choices are limited.
Obama Says He’ll Use Force Unilaterally to Protect “Vital Interests” “I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened. We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense….” (6/14)
“Allowing Iran, a radical theocracy that supports terrorism and openly threatens its neighbors, to acquire nuclear weapons is a risk we cannot take,” Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said in a letter to the Israel Project, a pro-Israel group that educates the public about Israel and advocates an end to investment in Iran. (7/26)
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a pointed warning yesterday to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying that as president he would be prepared to order U.S. troops into that country unilaterally if it failed to act on its own against Islamic extremists. (8/07)
update 1/13/08 - Most of the news published after this article was written was about Obama’s “Muslim connection”: Obama’s no Muslim but why no defense of Islam? Who’s the Real Threat – A ‘Muslim’ Obama or the Fools Who Believe and Spread Untrue Claims? Obama’s not a Muslim, but why should it matter? Obama/Kerry Incident Proves “Muslim” Is the New “N” Word Sheila Musaji. Foes Use Obama’s Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him. Obama Can’t Escape the “Muslim” Label. Barack’s opportunity, Hesham Hassaballa. A Muslim like Obama, Menan Ahmed
However, there are other news items that raise many other concerns:
Obama’s August speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Menan Ahmed - Obama’s letter to U.N. on Israel 1/25/08 - ” ... the presidential hopeful urged the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to either condemn Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel or remain silent about events in Gaza.” - Obama for Jewish Israel, Against Return of Palestinian Refugees 1/29/08 “White House Democratic front-runner Senator Barak Obama believes Israel must remain a Jewish state and Palestinian refugees must forget about every returning to their homes. “The right of return is something that is not an option in a literal sense.” ... “The outlines of any agreement would involve ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state.” - Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy, Stephen Zunes
“In the face of widespread international condemnation over Israel’s massive attacks against Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure during the summer of 2006, Obama rushed to Israel’s defense, co-sponsoring a Senate resolution defending the operation. Rather than assign any responsibility to Israel for the deaths of over 800 Lebanese civilians, Obama claimed that Hezbollah was actually responsible for having used “innocent people as shields.” This assertion came despite the fact that Amnesty International found no conclusive evidence of such practices and Human Rights Watch, in a well-documented study, had found “no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack,” an analysis confirmed by subsequent scholarly research.” - Can I have my change back? : Arab-Americans and Obama’s False Hope, by Remi Kanazi - Obama’s Jewish Problem, by Rabbi Michael Lerner 2/1/08 - Many similarities between Chicago and the Middle East, Ray Hanania 2/2/08 - Competing Visions in American Politics: Obama versus McCain, by Dr. Robert D. Crane 2/10/08 - Obama, Muslims, the Potomac Primaries and a Changing America, by Tariq Nelson 2/12/08 - Obama’s Secret Alliance, by Tariq Nelson 2/13/08
UPDATE November 2008 Obama is now the President-Elect. Muslims voted overwhelmingly for him, along with a majority of the countries voters. I voted for him myself and am hopeful that he may truly represent needed change. I am hopeful, but it is a hope tempered by some fear that he may not live up to the high expectations that so many have for this president. It still remains to be seen.
UPDATE January 20, 2009 - The inauguration speech was truly inspiring (see full text). I, along with many other cautiously optimistic people I have spoken with have an increased feeling of hope and possibility.
UPDATE January 22, 2009 - The AAIUSA reports: “On his first day in office, he called President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud ‘Abbas first, followed by calls to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, President Mubarak of Egypt, and Jordan’s King Abdullah.. On his second day, the President names George Mitchell, an Arab American and the architect of the peace accord in Northern Ireland, to the top post of Middle East Envoy.” The President also announced the shutdown of the network of CIA ‘ghost prisons’, the end to torture, and the closing of Guantanamo. In a speech to State Department employees he made comment that give hope that the U.S. may still be an honest broker for peace in Israel-Palestine. And, he revoked Pres. Bush’s executive order on Presidential Archives. This means that most of Bush’s records will be available to the public.
UPDATE 1/27/09 On Arab TV Network, Obama Urges Dialogue http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/world/middleeast/28arabiya.html?_r=1 - For Palestinians, Obama’s Message is Crystal Clear, Ramzy Baroud http://www.metimes.com/Opinion/2009/01/26/for_palestinians_obamas_message_is_crystal_clear/2560/
Barack Obama Between Hope and Reality, Ralph Nader http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21143.htm
Can Obama Stop the Bailout Profiteers?, Naomi Klein http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2008/11/real-change-depends-stopping-bailout-profiteers
Deadly Fallout From Obama’s Groveling Before Israel Lobby, James Abourezk http://www.counterpunch.org/abourezk06102008.html
Desmond Tutu on the Election of Barack Obama, the Israeli Blockade of Gaza, US Foreign Policy etc. http://www.democracynow.org/2008/11/21/south_african_archbishop_desmond_tutu_on
HUMOR VIDEO: Robin Williams on Obama’s Election http://politicalirony.com/2008/11/30/robin-williams-on-obamas-election/
New Yorker Cover: The Fear of an Obama Planet, Mona Eltahawy http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/opinion/?id=26916
Obama (and Big Media) Turn Blind Eye to Israeli Apartheid http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0807/S00258.htm
Obama and the Imperial Presidency, Jack Balkin The Bush administration has worked hard to increase presidential power. Will Barack Obama give it up? http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/11/12-4
Obama (finally) reaching out to American Muslims, Omid Safi http://blog.beliefnet.com/progressiverevival/2008/07/obama-finally-reaching-out-to.html
Obama, Emanuel and Israel, John V. Whitbeck http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21165.htm
Obama Mania, Stephen Lendman (who are the experts Obama will be calling on?) http://www.opednews.com/articles/Obama-Mania-by-Stephen-Lendman-081110-428.html
Open letter to Obama http://www.alternativetentacles.com/page.php?page=jello_openletter
Obama vs. the lunatic fringe, Clarence Page http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-oped0817pageaug17,0,542913.column
Obama falls victim to propaganda, Eric Margolis http://www.torontosun.com/News/Columnists/Margolis_Eric/2008/07/20/6209056-sun.php
Obama, Israel and AIPAC, Uri Avnery http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery06092008.html
Obama’s Speech: Healing the Wounds of Race, Jim Wallis http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2008/03/healing-the-wounds-of-race-by.html#comments
Shahed Amanullah & Muslims for Obama http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/23/MNP812AG95.DTL&type=politics
Why Obama should end the “war on terror” http://b.casalemedia.com/V2/62428/107894/index.html?www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2008/11/25/obama_war_on_terror/index.html?source=newsletter