12 March, 2010

An Open Letter to American Friends from an Indian Muslim

Dear Fellow Americans

This comes to you from a rationalist Muslim of India and is about your Presidential candidates.

Thank you America for your numerous gifts to earth. Your medicines saved numerous precious lives, your inventions made our life comfortable. American explorations from the sub-atomic to supra-galactic broadened our understanding of life, its origin and perhaps direction. And above all we thank you for proclaiming the dignity of human race and liberty and equality of all humans on earth. Without you this world would have been badly impoverished.
As a curious middle class Muslim in the far off India I grew up admiring your heroism, sportsmanship and adventures, science and technology, struggles and compassion. I marveled at your fine democratic spirit and institutions. Although culturally very different, I instinctively aligned myself with your travails and lapped up your icons. For most of mankind you became the ultimate dreamland.
That sadly is past. Alas! the famed American spirit, too, seems to have fallen prey to the vagaries of history. May I present another side of the reality?

Your successive governments’ foreign policies, particularly during the Bush regime, have shown utter contempt for the weak and vulnerable. The state of America has seldom been so despised as in the last 7 years, worldwide. Virtually righting the might you have adopted disturbing double standards conveniently overlooking stark truths.

You virtually coined the phrase Islamic Terrorism popularizing the notion that Muslims are by default terrorists. Undoubtedly 9/11 was an act of terrorism and must be punished. But reckon who killed more humans in history. Muslims? Consider the massacre of Jews in Germany, the carnage of innocents on both sides in the two world wars including in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the numerous third world wars including the Indo-Pakistan confrontation resulting from the legacy of Western colonialism.

Picture these victims: mothers feeding babies, patients inside hospitals, revelers in wedding processions, peasants at work in agricultural farms and workers in medicine factories.. all killed by your im-‘precision’ bombing in Sudan, Afghanistan and now in Iraq. These were about as innocent as those in WTC. The victims, not the killers here happened to be Muslims.

When your foreign policy pampers Muslim despots, Emirs, Sheikhs and kings – for your oil needs – and helps them suppress the people’s struggles for freedom, liberty and democracy, why does your sense of democracy not militate?

Would you like a Muslim ruler to impose his values upon you and your country and, if you disobey, be punished and called aggressors, militants, terrorists? Hasn’t George Bush done just that in Iraq? In simple language America is aggressor and the Iraqis are fighting for their freedom from occupation.

You lost billions in this needless war brining your economy and that of nearly the entire world to catastrophe.

Your government has fed you on familiar diet: homeland security, chasing the enemy, preempting terrorism, democratizing [Islamic] dictatorships et al. But, sorry, today America has more enemies than before, that despite your mighty arsenal you live in greater danger than ever before. Anyone who pushes people to suicides lives dangerously.

Haven’t some of you somehow developed a jaundiced, self-centered world-view? Liberty, democracy, freedom and rule of law for yourselves at home, injustice, aggression for others outside? Your soldiers are liberators and heroes; theirs jihadis, militants, aggressors, fanatics!

To know how the world regards your foreign policy, you don’t need global referendum; the UN General Assembly proceedings, despite the stifling pressure exerted by your government through puppet regimes and leaders, suffice. How come the heirs to the heroes of liberty came to condone such plain indignity?

Most of humanity sympathized with you for 9/11. Even after blatant aggression in Iraq most people – including Muslims – distinguish the state from the ordinary American. By re-electing Mr Bush, however, you endorsed his policy of murder and aggression. Would you then not be liable to retaliation from his victims? Some don’t believe America has the sole monopoly of murder. By electing McCain you will be repeating this error.

We respect you because of what you gave, not for your power of killing. We count upon you to free earthlings of disease, deflect asteroids heading toward earth, not to police the earth and dictate your values on our lives. We want to love you, not fear. We adore those of you that show concern, understanding and reconciliation, not those calling for confrontation, subjugation, destruction. If this madness continues, humanity loses, peace perishes, innocents fall, undoing all the good your forefathers did.

Barak Obama who? I don’t know more than what your TV channels told. Bush I do. John McCain, though a respectable person, appears unmistakably as George’s extension. One is an unknown face, another certain extension of your insensitivity. The world wants you to send Barak to the White House. In one stroke you would have firmly demonstrated your commitment to racial and regional equality, equal opportunity for all and fairness of judgment.

But what right do I have to muddle in your politics? The same as you have in Iraq, Pakistan, Korea, Iran, Libya, and a dozen other countries. And, your President matters to us all. Indeed, to some of us he matters more than ours, for good or for bad.

I absolutely dislike Osama Bin Laden and his ilk because they killed innocent Americans; they are against science, reason, modernity, secularism. But in all fairness – like many Americans – I see merit in his grievances. Remember he had started on your approved model: clean-shaven, trousers and jackets, a degree in economics, dances in Beirut.. But your insensitivity let him down, denied him justice. And the Jihadis won. Your political hegemony fanned his religious extremism. Your injustice made the monster you now find him. You partnered him in repelling invading Soviets in Afghanistan. He partnered with the Baathis in fighting your invasion of Iraq, the Talibaans in Afghanistan and the Mullahs in Pakistan!

As truth seekers can you not see the man’s commitment to his cause, sacrifices and character? What if you catch and kill him? You will have unwittingly made him a martyr. Then you lose, he wins more. And the Muslim world that has erroneously come to see him as its champion hates you more, giving birth to myriad mini-Osamas. They cannot destroy you; but they surely will irritate you to no end.

Instead, through reasoned fairness that has been your historic weapon, deflect his argument, his case. Reach out, as you once did, with truth, compassion, equality and dignity for your allies and your perceived enemies alike, including Muslim nations. After you have substantially neutralized Osama’s impact, go for him and let the international law take its course. For this the Muslims will forgive Barak Obama more easily than they will John McCain.

One more reason we admired you was your rationality, your spirit of inquiry and scientific temper. Sadly your current President epitomizes superstition and irrationality. John McCain may be a shade better but here again Obama looks far fitter.

Yes, the Jihadi’s method is violent and I believe will betray their cause. But can you cure the ailments by treating merely the symptoms? Gandhi, Mandela and Dalai Lama have a message for you: truth, understanding and reconciliation. Show more respect to what other people think of you, for in our interlinked world this matters sometimes even more than what you think of yourselves. As Barak said we want to see your power of example, not the example of your power.

You have an opportunity this November of asserting the original and forgotten Americanism. Peace on earth also happens to hinge on your decision.

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