(A condensed version of this article should appear in the upcoming print of The Muslim Perspective newsletter.)
Long before the ballots for the 2008 elections were cast, there was an unusual amount of optimism regarding a skinny guy with a funny name from Hawaii and what he could accomplish not only for those here in America but what he deliver for those around the globe. A large community that is going to be impacted is the Muslims not only here but around the world.
The simple rationale for the new hope behind Barack Obama could be found in his political approach to nearly every critical issue facing us today. He has been brutally honest in his assessments regarding the economic turmoil, his willingness to be patient to rally for multi-national support in determining foreign policies, bringing immediate change from the previous administration by admitting early on in the race for Presidency that he was willing to put all options back on the table when dealing with Iran.
President Barack Obama in his inauguration speech spoke to the Muslim world leaving very little to imagination. “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” he stated in his address and sought to renew a relationship built upon trust and not based on power or dissent. It has probably been a long time coming but the time is here for the Muslim world to be thrust upon the center state in a positive light by an American President.
“In Islam, there is a hadith that reads ‘None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself,” he said at a prayer service just two weeks after his inaugural address, once again showing his willingness to put asides the philosophical and ideological differences of the past administration in hope for a new beginning.
By no means has this been a smooth campaign to win over the Muslims after a tumultuous past eight years. He drew some heavy criticisms from within his own political party when in an apparent attempt to appear slightly hawkish and readiness to be commander-in-chief, he stated that he was willing to strike within Pakistan, if the Pakistani government would not align militaristic policies with him. He was quoted in saying “if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will,” Obama said.
Plenty within the Muslim community were also troubled with the fact that throughout the campaign and through the constant baseless attacks on his religious affiliation, he rarely spoke out in favor of Islam. There were consistent photo opportunities released by his staffers and close advisers meeting with Christian and Jewish leaders but very little was done to reach out or extend an olive branch – they seemed to be in repetitive damage control mode to dispel any Obama-Muslim rumors.
There is an unrealistically high amount of expectation for President Obama to provide solutions for not only a failing economy and housing crisis here at home but also a large amount of anticipation has been built up for how he plans to handle the Middle East situation. He has become a superhero of sorts with his intention of taking charge of critical issues and attempting to solve them in these difficult times should lead us to what great uncle Ben once stated to a young Spiderman: With great power, comes great responsibility.
He has a great amount of political capital to work with in his first hundred days in office and it will certainly go a long way to defining the rest of his presidency. His initial plans on whether to be complacent with Iran or aggressive in removing the troops from the occupied areas in Afghanistan and Iraq can be a stepping stone towards proving that he has the right intentions at heart and in mind when dealing with Muslims worldwide towards achieving a better tomorrow.