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News :: Media
Obama's Inauguration's Speech: The Role of Arab and Muslim Americans
20 Jan 2009
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 Side of Chicago.
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 Side 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 States 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 struggling with one’s self and making one’s self a better one. 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-Americanism and anti-semanticism, 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 that 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. Wa Aslam Aliakum wa Rahmatulah wa Barrakatuh

Aladdin Elaasar is a syndicated columnist, lecturer and an advocate for human rights and democracy. He wrote: “Silent Victims” and “The Last Pharaoh”.
Born, raised and educated in Egypt, Aladdin Elaasar is one of the foremost authorities on Egypt and the Arab World. In the United States, Aladdin Elaasar worked as a school teacher, counsellor for refugees, served with AmeriCorps at the Jane Addams Hull House Chicago, and as an ESL teacher. He is a former professor of Arabic language and Area Studies at the Defense Language Institute, and the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Elaasar has been a frequent commentator on the Middle East on American TV and Radio networks and cofounder and former Vice President of NAAJA, the American Arab Journalists Association. He speaks English, Arabic, French and Spanish. omaraladin (at)
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