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29 Aug, 2010

American Presidents don’t walk the talk of their lofty speeches

Originally Published: 29 August 2010

On Sept 20, 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush stood before the U.S. Congress and delivered a post-9/11 address to the nation. Five quotes stand out:

<> I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.) The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. (Applause.)

<> We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo.

<> This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

<> I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith. (Applause.)

Cut to June 4, 2009, and President Obama’s famous speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, headlined: “A New Beginning”. Here are some quotes:

<> I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

<> I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply sceptical that real change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward.

<> I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

Cut to August 2010. In addition to this cover story in Time magazine last week, here is a sample of recent headlines in U.S. media, all of which can be easily googled:

<> Calif. Mosque Vandalized with Hate Signs Referring to NY Controversy

<> Rider Asks if Cabby Is Muslim, Then Stabs Him

<> Pastor’s Plan to Burn Korans Adds to Dangers

<> Speaker Brings Anti-Islam Message to FL Tea Party Rally

<> Anti-Mosque Coalition Website Owned by Islamophobe Gaffney

<> Pakistani Couple Singled Out By Flight Attendant

It does not take much to prove that American presidents don’t walk the talk. There is not just a large gap but a yawning chasm between the sugar-coated rhetoric penned by their spin doctors, and the realities on the ground.

Hence, this month of Ramadan in the Islamic year 1431 will prove to be historic. This will be the month when the United States came face-to-face with its own home-grown fundamentalist fanatics, the Judaeo-Christian far-right groups about whom I have written incessantly over the years.

Is America Islamophobic? Of course not. As a country and as a people it certainly is not. But just as a small group of Muslim fundamentalist fanatics have created problems for the religion as a whole, so too have a small group of American Judeo-Christian fundamentalist fanatics created problems for the country as a whole.

I’m sure many “moderate Americans” are now squirming uncomfortably upon reading these headlines, just as many “moderate Muslims” do when they read about “Islamic terrorists” indulging in acts of violence. Welcome to the club.

By coming out and venting their anti-Islamic fury, these Judeo-Christian fanatics have proved they exist. The next step is to identify those who exist not just on the streets but those who are embedded deep in the American system, in its government, diplomatic corps, intelligence agencies, corporations, media, think tanks, universities and research institutes.

All have played a major role in manipulating and lying to the American people and to the world at large about Islam, its relations with the U.S., about the reasons for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear plans, and most significantly, about America’s role vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestine conflict. By forcing America into expensive, unproductive wars, they have contributed to the economic, social and geopolitical decline of this once highly-esteemed global power.

President Obama’s “new beginning” with the Islamic world last June may actually turn out to be a “new beginning” in confronting America’s home-grown fundamentalist fanatics. Only when “moderate Americans” create their own “new beginning” by rooting out their domestic extremists will the second decade of the 21st century prove to be less dangerous, unstable and conflict-ridden than the first.

But let me warn, as I have done with considerable accuracy over the years, these extremists are getting more dangerous.

Armed with slick PowerPoint presentations and oodles of money, they are slowly but steadily infiltrating the next emerging world power, India, where new alliances are being forged with Hindu extremist groups on the basis of the slogan, “shared values.” Seeking a new powerbase for their war on Islam by extending it into Asia will prove to be hugely destabilising in this part of world.

Asia must be forewarned, and forearmed, to confront these forces of evil, and their game-plan to trigger a “clash of civilisations.” The Muslim world has long known about this. Believe me, it is NOT a “conspiracy theory.”