Friday, 19 June 2009

A first great step, now ensuring the rest will follow….

President Obama has started the repairing of the confidence and respect gap that exists between the Muslim World and the United States. Let us hope that this process does not stop nor pause, to fail would be a set-back of the first magnitude.

Looking back at the past and particularly the eight years of the George W Bush Administration, the difference is remarkable. The culture of “us and them”, “we are better” and worse, “we are the world’s policeman” was simply making America’s image stink in the eyes of many in the world, particularly those in the Muslim one.

In the recent past, the far right-wing political movement in the United States obviously had the number to sway things in their closet-evangelist persona, hiding under more diplomatic phraseology such as “exporting democracy”. Of course it was worse than that by far – be like us, follow us or our giant economy will ensure you comply later one but without benefit.

“Be like us” is probably the key phrase, a xenophobic assumption that “my way” is better than “your way” and what is scary is that this was the way a giant like the US was run. It made no friends and certainly encouraged the diminishing of any good relations with those that did not follow it.

The fact that is undeniable is that much of the world is not in-line with some of the way things are done, perceived and supported in the United States of America or the West in general. The Muslim World in particular has by its very nature priorities of a different family value system, the level of influence religion has in general life, morality and even banking and finance. Though most of the Muslim World does have secular legal systems, most are Qur’anic (Sharia) inspired when it comes to morals and punishments. Fundamentalist run countries are of course another matter.

We Muslims simply will not and cannot accept that any nation, be it the United States or other, telling us that our faith is wrong and our beliefs must change, to target those key differences is by its very nature doing that. Of course the answer is something akin to “go to hell”.
As President Obama has grasped this problem and understood that there are differences AND that there are also many more similarities that all is needed is to respect the other’s differences and cooperate and concentrate on those we can share. This last piece is more critical than one can express and to fail is the potential disaster I mentioned before.

Like it or lump it, the battle against radical and militant Islamist fundamentalism is global. Though it is primarily a battle that we Muslims must lead, history and politics has ensured it is global and everywhere and all nations must involve itself in it to varying degrees. The United States is in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and there lives are as much as stake as others. Fundamentalism must be rooted out and that can only be done by supporting the liberal-moderate Muslims whom more than often are the educated middle-class and civil servants of many of the nations suffering directly from fundamentalists.

Supporting them is easy, mostly by dealing with them as equals, simply acknowledging what Barrack Obama has just done, that we share this world, we respect you and you have your rights. This very act will ensure that Muslims are not concentrating on how the West views them, which unfortunately does often dominate their lives, instead of concentrating on more imortant matters. Also, this simple level of respect takes away the ammunition that the fundamentalists are constantly claiming, that the Ugly Americans will never accept the Muslim World as equals and thus you must fight them. With that ammunition gone, the moderates and liberals will show that partnership, progress is possible and with that the benefits that come with it. The target audience for this is the bulk of the Muslim World; poor, uneducated, conservative and wanting hope in their lives.