Love and Thanks,
Hopefully, President Obama’s Message to the Muslim World:
Walk the walk and then we’ll talk the talk
by M. Zuhdi Jasser
For IPT News
January 23, 2009
Thank you. As we begin to lay the groundwork of my administration, I have been looking forward to this, my maiden voyage as President of the United States into the Muslim world. As the son of a Kenyan immigrant to the United States, I cannot help but understand the plight of minorities in the Muslim world and the desire of so many who live in Muslim majority nations to flee to the United States in order to live in freedom. I have fond memories of my childhood years in Indonesia but still thank God every day for my family’s desire to live in the land of freedom in the United States.
But I know we can see a day when Muslim-majority nations can be lands of freedom. Yes we can. But first we must usher in change. Change from the despotism and militant Islamism which has ravaged the human rights of those living in Muslim nations. But the first step is doing away with denial. On my inaugural I said, ‘To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” I am here to extend a hand to all of your citizens and especially those who believe in freedom.
The Saudi royal family has certainly been generous to our universities and Presidential libraries. But it is not a surprise how little criticism of Wahhabism or political Islam comes out of those universities. How can we be a beacon of freedom for your people, for the world, when our human rights standards vary with the highest bidder? The opportunity I have had in America to become President is the sign of a nation which honors the rights of every citizen equally before the law.
Yes, you can see a day where every Saudi, every Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian, and Pakistani has the same opportunity. But that needs real change, real education, real human rights. It is time for the Muslim world and its nations to honor the rights and opportunities of every one of its citizens who happen to come from outside the tribes in control.
Every human being living in Saudi Arabia should have the right to build a house of worship, not only Muslims. Theocrats have enabled a shar’ia based legal system which is an anathema to liberty and basic human rights –all in the name of the religion of Islam. Your Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has tried to make any discussion in the United Nations on this subject illegal by pretending to just want to protect the name of Islam through what are clearly blasphemy laws. I will not stand idly by as the OIC turns the UN into an Inquisition. I am here to tell you that I will do what I can to stop U.S. funding of the U.N., which dishonors its charter and what Eleanor Roosevelt and her colleagues in 1948 described as “the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all people.”
I will also remind you of another warning uttered by Eleanor Roosevelt, “we must not be deluded by the efforts of the forces of reaction to prostitute the great words of our free tradition and thereby to confuse the struggle.”
Many of you have lost faith in the United States because we have in fact been hypocritical to our ideals of freedom by catering to the oppressors of so many Muslim-majority nations. We will no longer abandon dissidents in nations of the OIC because of fear of diplomatic or economic repercussions. Abraham Lincoln described the United States as the “last best hope on earth” because so many had fought valiantly for the ideals of freedom which founded our nation. From the victims of the genocide in Sudan to the female victims in Saudi Arabia, to all those victims of oppression in the liberty-deprived nations of the OIC, I will dedicate my foreign policy strategy to letting the world hear your voices, while we no longer cater to the voices of your oppressors. I am putting them on notice that until they walk the walk of freedom, we will listen first to the talk of those who want freedom from them.
My administration will hold every nation in the Muslim world accountable globally for the human rights in their nations. It saddens me that, according to Islamic legal experts of fiqh, I should have been tried in an Islamic court for apostasy when I chose to be Christian early in my life rather than choosing the faith of my father–Islam. I will not countenance the barbarity of laws of apostasy by ignoring them. By ignoring them I am tacitly supporting them now from the bully pulpit of the U.S. Presidency.
After the Cold War ended in 1989 and we witnessed the fall of communism, it became obvious to many of us that we had to abandon our hypocritical support of Islamists. Our enemy’s enemies will no longer be our friends unless they first share our ideas of liberty or can demonstrate a genuine desire to liberalize their society for all citizens. In a bipartisan American spirit, I recall the words of former President Reagan and envision liberation and “peace through strength.”
We will no longer compartmentalize our interactions with Muslims and non-Muslims in the world, where we ask for vastly different standards of human rights depending upon the nation and our fear of oil prices or of Al Qaeda. From this time forward, faith is irrelevant. What matters to me as President of the United States is the human rights of every individual in your countries. Full diplomatic relations will be predicated upon a respect for your citizens’ freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom from blasphemy laws, freedom of assembly, freedom from apostasy laws, and equality of the sexes.
I am told by my predecessors that my idealistic dream of freedom and liberty for the citizens of the Muslim world is laudable but simply impossible. I was told that your influence upon the cost of oil makes your apologetics for terrorism and the Wahhabi-Salafi inspiration of that terror immune from criticism. I cannot live with that hypocrisy, and neither should you.
King Abdullah’s recent interfaith initiative in New York was good enough on the surface of American soil, but until the women of Saudi Arabia have equal rights on your soil the window dressing of interfaith work will mean nothing to us. Reform your laws, reform your treatment of minorities and then I’ll begin to believe that there is some truth in the King’s interfaith work.
Walk the walk and then we’ll talk the talk.
I have spoken to many Muslims who dream of someday making their pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca in what is the most spiritual journey for a Muslim. But their bright spiritual dream is constantly overshadowed by the fact that their dream takes place in a nation in which not one of them would ever want to live or work. The abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia is so great it makes the most holy of sites for their faith an anathema to them. It is truly sad for any human being of faith to find that their most holy site to visit is not even close to being their most holy of places to live.
I hope I am not being too forward. But when I spoke of change – I meant real change and not a veneer. I am talking about the type of change in which the standards we set for our citizens inside the United States are the same we advocate for all human beings outside the United States. Our foreign policy for decades has been too much about short-term gains and not enough about the long term. I will not be another President in the long line of those who come to the Middle East and do photo opportunities with leaders, only to stay silent to the inhuman injustices perpetrated by your governments. Almost three generations have been lost since World War II. We need change before the fourth.
Terrorism is just a tactic. We are fighting an enemy who cannot be defeated on the battlefield alone, but must be combated with ideas. We must marginalize and defeat the ideas of political Islam which ultimately drive the dreams of militant Islamists. They seek a theocratic Islamist state. I truly believe that change will not come from democratic reforms alone which will only usher in a government of the majority- a ‘mobocracy.’ But real change will come when, in addition to democracy, we see the ushering in of the ideas of minority rights and of equality of all before the law.
I believe there is an innate human preference of liberty over Islamism. Yes, you heard me correct—Islamism. I will be canceling the administrative policy which bizarrely prohibited the use of that term and other appropriate terms like jihadist or Salafist by our governmental personnel. We will never win a contest of ideas against an ideology we cannot name. If you disagree, begin the debate, but don’t kill the debate.
I truly believe that you will welcome this change since the majority of Muslims in your nations, if left to their own devices, would not want to live under political Islam. Most people want to live under governments based upon reason and the rule of law, rather than under theocracies based in oligarchy.
It is time for the United States through my leadership to usher in a new Marshall Plan for the Muslim world – ‘a Jefferson Project,’ if you will. We will no longer sit idly by as the Muslim Brotherhood spreads the ideologies of political Islam across the Middle East and into the West with little to no competition – no counter-project. I hope the legacy of my administration will be a global movement to counter political Islam. I know this will gain bipartisan support in the United States since the vast majority of Americans can ultimately appreciate the dangers of shar’ia and its driving theocracy.
Just as you have pumped oil and Wahhabi literature into the West, we will begin an initiative to share equally with our Muslim global neighbors the ideas and scholars of liberty. Every diplomat will now begin handing out translated versions of classics books on liberty written by Bastiat, deTocqueville, Hayek, Rand, Jefferson, Madison, Freidman, or Adam Smith. We will translate book after book of ideas which carry the ideals of liberty, and reverse the project which the Brotherhood has tried to spread to the west. We will find your leading anti-Islamist and liberty-minded reformers and give them every opportunity to spread their ideas.
We will begin women’s rights and equality programs in every nation and lift up those leaders as icons of your next generations. We will begin translating many western liberty minded websites and videos for distribution in the Muslim world. We will also begin to help all the political dissidents who are prisoners of conscience and not leave them to forgotten diplomacy.
Domestically, I am going to ask American Muslim organizations to make their thoughts clear on where they stand regarding the ideology of political Islam and its impact upon radicalization and its obvious conflict with secular liberal democracies. We will no longer cater to apologists unwilling to join us in this ideological debate on the side of liberty. I will ask them to unequivocally condemn the freedom deficits in their motherlands from Libya to Pakistan, while also calling out terror groups, networks and individuals by name.
Having listened to Reverend Jeremiah Wright for many years, I know too well the impact of a fiery minister who mixes religion and politics. I will call for all interfaith work to be predicated on our imams, rabbis, and priests coming together to call out hate, intolerance, Islamism, and violence in Muslim sermons around the world. I will call for Muslim leaders around the world to begin the painful process of creating a post-modern Islam not at odds with modernity.
The OIC has had an American Muslim representative for a little over a year now, and I am committed to making that position more meaningful and representative of real change. It will no longer just be a ‘listening’ post. I call upon the OIC to repudiate laws which restrict freedom in the name of Islamic law–sharia. I call upon the OIC members to declare unequivocally that they reject the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights and reaffirm their signatory status to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. The two are inherently incompatible.
The security of all free-minded nations and their citizens demands that our greatest minds and strongest personalities come together and counter the daily dose of despotism, monarchy, tribalism, corruption, conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism and political Islam which has become a staple for so much of the “Muslim” media. If I, as a minority in the United States who now stands before you as President of the United States, cannot advocate for real religious freedom and liberty for everyone who lives in your nations, then who can?
Yes, you can change. Yes, we can all change and defeat Islamism, the greatest threat of the 21st century, together.
M. Zuhdi Jasser is the President of theAmerican Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a community activist, and a physician in private practice