One Year Since Cairo
By Dr. Abdul Muni’im Aboul Futouh*
It has been one year since President Obama gave his speech to the Muslim World at Cairo University. President Obama stressed that there is no animosity between the United States and the Muslim World, and that he wants to turn a new page with Muslims.
We waited to see President Obama’s kind words turning into a promising new reality of healthy and equitable relations he preached, but we see nothing new. We see Israel has become more belligerent in its aggression and cruelty. We see insistence on supporting dictatorship and police states which solely rely on such support to violate and oppress their people. And we see more mistakes being made day in and day out in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But we have not entirely given up hope considering the remarkable American experience that introduced the “Obama Phenomenon.” That America has begun redemption for some of its mistakes when a young African American came to office through the $5 donations by ordinary Americans rather than big banks and media. America has a president who owes his presidency to those promising generations who yearn for justice, and world peace on Facebook and Myspace, rather than lobbies and interest groups. In Obama’s election, we saw that the ideals America’s founding fathers spoke of in the US constitution are rising from the ashes, once again. We saw that Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson’s claims of all people’s right to life, freedom, and pursuit of happiness are all still possible.
Obviously, there are obstacles in front of turning Obama’s vision into reality. But before highlighting such obstacles, one must never forget that none of such obstacles is beyond solution, if Obama’s vision is backed by true intentions, and sincere desires.
We must always remember that an equitable relationship between people is one that serves best interest and well being of both people without infringing upon the rights of one another or on somebody else. We must also believe that human idealism of peace, justice, and freedom-for-all ultimately all prevail regardless to current realities or political maneuvering. And we must behold that it is our duel responsibility as servants of humanity and builders of civilization to rise over prejudice and inclinations to serve the high values and sanctity of human life and man’s inalienable rights to freedom.
Obama’s first obstacle is Israel. Whatever is found upon injustice is unjust, and will only bring more injustice. Today, Israel represents the first and foremost world challenge to religious and ethical values and practices, human rights and norms, and to world order and international laws and conventions. We must recognize that Israel is a challenge not only to America and its interest, and Muslims and Arabs who want to peacefully raise their children in their own homes, but also to the Israelis themselves and to the millions of Jews around the world who see their divine religion been hijacked by a racist political ideology.
But to put Israel’s question into perspective, we must highlight few points:
First, there is no historical vendetta or eternal animosity between Arabs and Muslims on one hand and Jews on the other. As Muslims, we regard Jews as followers of a divine religion in which we believe. We have lived in harmony together under the Islamic civilization, which Jewish historians mark as the most prosperous for the Jewish people. Unlike Europe’s cruelty and persecution of Jews, Muslim lands have always been safe haven for Jews to live and excel in their trades. Muslims pained over Jewish suffering in the European massacres like the one in 14th century when Pope Paul IV ordered their extermination and isolation after accusing Europe’s Jews of poisoning water wells. Russian Caesars exterminated Jews in the 18th century for being alien nation. In contrast Jewish historians are first to testify that Muslims always treated Jews with respect, fairness, and dignity. Thus, Muslims and Jews, including many in Israel, see that the Israeli problem as one that has been created to serve any interest but the interest of the two groups.
Second, any claim of a continuous historical association between Jews and Palestine is entirely baseless and is even further confirmed by Israel’s relentless archeological discoveries. History tells us that Jewish communities did exist in Palestine at different times, but just as other communities, Jews assembled, dispersed, and assimilated in local communities, and relocated and migrated to other regions. Jewish intellectuals throughout Jewish history have always called for assimilating Jews into local communities and called for promoting harmony, reason, and justice among people. For centuries, Jewish thinkers called for world peace instead of the arguments we hear today of “promised land”, and “re-building the Temple,” and have denounced concepts of Zion and rebuilding Israeli kingdom. Very few followers of the Zionist doctrine allied with Europe colonizers and rewrote the myths of return to the promised-land. Those Zionist agreed with one another to play the colonizer’s-designated role of separating the East from the West. Now Israel enjoys European and American support under the claim to compensate for Jews extermination and persecution. But one must not forget that underlying animosity that caused the painful rift between Jews and the West in the past are still there and are only compounded by Israel’s defiance and Israel sense of impunity.
Third, Israel does not represent world Jewry. Israel and AIPAC can no longer claim exclusive representation of Jews as we have seen the emergence of new Jewish organizations such as J-street and J-cool which reject that notion of Jews having a state with defined political or geographic boundaries. Not only did Albert Einstein reject such a notion as baseless in Jewish belief, but so does the famous linguist Noam Chomsky, one of today’s most brilliant minds, as well as many Jewish authorities and intellectuals.
Therefore, America must be cautious of the mortality to the American people that comes from US unconditional support to Israel. Often times the US finds herself in most undesirable situations for no reasons except for what Israel has brought upon her.
America has often corrected her path when realizing how wrong she was heading, and today we have no doubt that the sound of reason will prevail in America, once again.
We still all remember when Abraham Lincoln led the American people to abolish slavery.
We all recall how an African woman named Rosa Parks rattled America’s conscience and defeated racism and discrimination.
Who can forget how America prevailed over McCarthyism which hovered over America’s intellectuals and freedom.
It is America’s history of changing course when realizing her mistakes, which gives us all hope that once again America will abandon a course that goes against any civilized, historical, or human norm and reason.
The second main obstacle facing Obama is the corrupt totalitarian regimes. Such regimes have only formed since WWII and only aim at choking their societies and depriving their people of their natural right to growth, development, and democracy. Such dictators have always relied, and still do, on US support in quelling their own people with the excuse of serving regional security and stability. The closer such regimes got to the US the further they have moved from their own people. Precisely, it is despair and injustice that gives rise to social and cultural dysfunctionality, and to extremism, violence, and instability.
Islam and our great Islamic civilization have always taught us that stability only comes with freedom, prosperity, and cultural advancement (in education, science, thought, and arts) and that is precisely what we aspire to accomplish in our own societies. We aspire to work together with all groups and communities in our societies to reintroduce a vital political environment of pluralism, democracy, power sharing, and affording women their respectable status in all aspects of civic life. We aim at promoting equality and partnership among all groups and religious communities of our nations to rebuild our own societies and take our seats in the forefront to advance human civilization and welfare, regardless to color, creed, or social or economic status.
The sense of false stability that only comes from dictatorship, persecution, and depriving people of their right to life with dignity, according to the dictator’s doctrine “Don’t let Die, but Don’t let live,” only leads to violence, extremism, terrorism, instability, and crime.
Today, we still see a window of opportunity to correct for past mistakes, but we must immediately and together move away from the legacy of a miserable and dysfunctional past in our relationship.
We see great hopes that humanity hinges on all of us to correct for the path that has taken humanity in dark discourse, and that we all have the obligation to raise the banners of justice, humanity, freedom, and dignity for all. But more importantly, and for the sake of our children and better future, we all ought to live up to the banners we raise.
* Dr. Abdul Muni’im Aboul Futouh is Secretary General of Arab Doctor’s Union, an Arab League Diplomat, and senior leader in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.