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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Islam and Obama's USA

I saw the newspaper screaming headlines on Obama's 'reaching out to world Muslims' speech. So, didn't bother reading any further for couple of days. The sensationalism of our media these days compels you to not read further when headlines scream. The 'secular' ones have an obsession to overstate anyone 'reaching out to Islam'.  I have not bothered reading much about people's response as I am sure much of this will be based on what West is saying or in its response. I saw one of the younger friends, very enthused by this speech and wish he could talk like that!
Just now, I read the entire transcript as it has been forwarded by a friend I respect much. It is an important speech with several new messages to the world.

My first thoughts werewhy deliver this lecture in Egypt? Reminds you of the drama of G.Bush delivering the victory speech atop a aircraft carrier. While Obama has spoken at length about, 'countries of Muslim majority', I wonder why he didn't chose to give his speech in one of the two countries of Muslim majority,  the largest population of Muslims in the world are Indonesia and India. Both relatively peaceful practitioners of Islam before the export of a globalized Islam. Why can't President of USA talk to the peaceful Islamic practitioners and strengthen them and make them assert their peace rather than talk in the midst of tension torn West Asia, where the chances that anyone knows how to transact peace, particularly with the Christian world, would require forgetting centuries of hatred and almost changing their disposition towards the world.  

But, America can only talk to people in conflict and engaged in violence, their language is same. Interestingly, Obama's examples of both Islamic innovation(Algebra, Vaccination,...) as well as personal experience of tolerance are from India and Indonesia respectively. Not from the West Asian world.

To me one of the points that came across was the first clear indication of the American divestment of  Democracy from the highest power centre. Days of promoting Democracy are over. Nations can take their own path to it. 

The other interesting point about tailoring the laws of the nation to suit the religions practices, including tax laws that control contribution to charity by American Muslims, indicate extending  statute liberties to religious edicts beyond Christianity, whenever it is politically convenient. Seen this way, it could also hurt many of our liberals and secular pundits. 

The other issue that was pointed out to me was the pre-occupation of the American President with the Abrahamic religions as key players in constructing future world and him not mentioning Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. But, today, American government has acknowledged that the Islamic world is its nemesis, others are not. 

I am happily ignorant of any responses to this speech. We need to recognize that this is the Americans trying to resolve their own problems with the Islamic world and we will all be impacted by these changes. Certain scenarios I foresee:
(a) if Pakistan goes back to Musharraf or his successors, Americans may support him and forget Democracy as long as it suits its interests, it may even start a dialogue with Taliban in the coming years
(b) Global violence (and violence dependent commerce and industry) may look for softer targets to occupy themselves, we in India can be one, if Americans as large arms exporters and Terrorists from Islamic world can find a common soft target in India, we will see more attacks from the later and more sales of arms from the former, bleeding our economy both ways 
(c) the global Islamic agenda, particularly in financing social initiatives in Islamic countries may come to be dominated by American interests, this could mean more external funding for Islamic groups in India and elsewhere from American sources, promoting American idea of Islam
(d) a new global Islamic identity will be paraded across the world, the 'stereotyping of Islam' which we all suffered ever since Sept 11, will be corrected by American consent and collaboration and we will suffer a different 'stereotyping of Islam' now, perhaps with some sugar coating this time. With their global media domination, when America wants to change someone's image, the rest of the world has to suffer with it. 
(e) when the President of America says, 'countries of majority Muslims', he does not mean where majority of Muslims live as much as the countries who prescribe to and control the  Muslim identity of the world, largely from west Asia. This shows the American interests rest firmly with the globalized, centralized and controlled institutions, same for faith systems, same for economy, same for politics. 

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