ELAASAR: Obama’s Agenda for Arabs and Muslims? FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 01-13-09

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Obama’s Agenda for Arabs and Muslims?
By Aladdin Elaasar  — We are approaching a very historical event in the history of our nation, the United States of America. For the first time in our history, Americans voted for president –elect, Barrack Hussein Obama, as the first African-American president. We are so optimistic about the presidency of President Obama, not only for being the country’s first African American president, but for what he represents. Mr. Obama brings a new positive energy, deep global understanding of the intricacies of world affairs, and deep commitment for social justice and reform in our great country, the United States of America.

As a long time resident of Chicago, Illinois, myself, I had the honor and privilege of meeting Mr. Obama in person back in 2003 when he was running for the United States Senate. I met him while we were celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day in a church at the South Sid e of Chicago. You could see the enthusiasm, brightness and the great charisma and passion that Mr. Obama has. So I was not surprised to see him win the presidency.

As an African myself, I cannot tell how much proud and excited I am to see our nation having the first African-American president. This is a historical time for our nation. Arab and Muslim Americans are amongst those who overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Obama. As we know, there are about three million Arab Americans and about seven million Muslim Americans in this country. Not all Arab American are Muslims, and not all Muslim Americans are Arabs. These are very diverse communities. They come in all colors and backgrounds. They have been contributing to this nation for so long. Islam is not a foreign religion to this great nation of ours; Islam knew its way with the first sailors who came to America with Columbus after the fall of Granada in 1492. Islam was the religion of many Africans brought here to America. Muslim soldiers and chaplains contribute to the success of our military.

America has had long close friendly relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds. The first countries that recognised the United States after its independence are the Arab/Muslim North African nations of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, which stand up to this day as strong allies of the United States. The United has many Arab and Muslim nations as allies. We would like to clarify that Arabs, Muslims and Islam are not the enemy and have not. In our war on terror, we are engaged in a war against extremist elements that have the audacity to commit horrendous acts of terror against innocent civilians that Islam does not approve nor condone. Those literalists and self-righteous extremist elements give a bad name to Islam and Muslims. Islam calls for mercy, forgiveness, coexistence and tolerance. In the last few decades the world has been plagued by extremist militant fringe groups that live on the margin of society and call for bloodshed.

We should all join hands in subduing this phenomenon and exposing the fallacies behind these so called fundamentalist or Jihadist groups. They have been a threat to many Muslim and non-Muslim societies. They have targeted tens of thousands of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims everywhere. They have an aggressive malevolent agenda with extensive financial networks under many names.

In order for us to win the war on terror, we need to fight ignorance, desperateness and give hope to the millions who live in extreme poverty and do not see a light by the end of the tunnel who become an easy victim of brainwashing and indoctrination. We need to promote the respect of human rights and dignity, and honor human life as God commanded us to do. Jihad is not blowing one self’s up amongst people. The biggest Jihad, as we were told by Prophet Muhammad-PBUH, is stuggling with one’s self and making one’s self a better on. Violence breeds violence and complicates issues. Dialogue should be the option. Words, not bullets. Cultural understanding and tolerance.

Unfortunately, many Muslim societies are still living under the yoke of absolute rulers, authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships, for almost half a century. The result has been the absence of a real dialogue, lack of transparency, grave abuses of human rights, extreme poverty and corruption, the exploitation and politicization of religion in a way that enforces oppression and alienates the Muslim masses who get polarized by extremists calling for violence and abusing the concept of Jihad.

Absolute rulers in Arab and Muslim countries have contributed to the creation of a fertile soil for hopeless young people to be recruited by extremists, while the official state controlled media in these countries always promote intolerance and conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism20and anti-semiticism, in order to tighten the grasp of these totalitarian regimes. In order to distract their population from real nagging domestic issues, these regimes are always playing on the fear factor and trying to find an external or an internal enemy to put the blame on.

Muslims should start by questioning themselves, fix their house from the inside, ask for their rights and domestic reform rather than putting the blame on outsiders. The Muslim world is in a bad shape and it needs help before the internal collapse of these societies and the impact that it can send throughout many parts of the world.

In the West, we should extend a helping hand to these societies and help them get back their freedom, rather than giving a handout. We should not shake hands with dictators and supporters of extremism. We should not allow them amongst us, and we should not let preachers of hatred to brainwash our impressionable youngsters.
Muslim Americans and Muslims everywhere else do not need foreign money that come to our communities under the pretext of building mosques or charities while they promote an extreme hidden political agenda and an intolerant version of Islam t hat has been behind many extreme movements. Muslim communities can be self sufficient.

I extend my congratulations to president –elect, Barrack Hussein Obama, as the first African-American president and wish him success and guidance. I call upon all Muslim Americans to support him and pray for him and our nation.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
Ray Hanania