On the 6th of November, we witnessed the re-election of Barak Obama as President of the United States. Some media outlets have reported that Muslims saw his re-election as a positive event. For example, the Arab News reported one individual as saying, “I am excited about his re-election...He is not aggressive like Republican presidents.” In this article, we will explore President Obama's record with regards to the Muslim Ummah over the past four years.
A Trail of Broken Promises
In 2009, Obama gave a landmark speech during his visit to Cairo, where he stated that: "America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam." Despite this claim, his actions were in reality an extension of what the Bush Administration started in 2001.
The Continued Support of Israel
On March 12th 2007, while speaking to the Democratic activists in Muscatine, then Senator Obama said: “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” He also stated in his Cairo speech that "For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation." However, his administration failed to hold the Israeli's accountable for the atrocities that they committed in Palestine. As we all remember, Israel launched a vicious attack on the defenseless Muslims of Gaza. During this massacre, 1,417 Palestinian including children and women were killed. Who can forget the deadly plumes of white phosphorous that rained down death and destruction upon our brothers and sisters in Palestine? Not only did Obama not hold the Israeli aggressors accountable, but instead wanted to provide additional support to the occupying regime by asking Congress to give $205 million to Israeli military. According to Reuters, this money will be used for a missile system. Certainly, this weaponry will not alleviate the suffering of the people of Palestine, but can only lead to the killing of more innocent people.
Afghanistan and Iraq: The War on Islam Continues
With respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama continued to carry out Bush's wars in the region. One may point to the fact that he withdrew regular US troops from Iraq. However, according to the Guardian newspaper, the US still maintains 17,000 army personnel within its Iraqi embassy, not to mention the continued presence of Blackwater "contractors" hired by the US - who in reality are just a privatized army. And the Obama administration did not simply use these mercenaries in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of their personnel, Raymond Davis was arrested after killing two civilians in broad daylight on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan with full immunity.
Predator Drones: Obama's weapon of choice
The use of predator drones under the Obama Administration in Muslim lands, especially, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia has increased dramatically. According to Slate.com, Obama used drone strike 5 times as much as President George Bush numbering over 300 bombings under his administration. In some case, the 24/7 presence of drones flying over communities has severely increased the level of psychological disorders, traumas and anxiety for those living in targeted regions. The fear of these drones stem from the terror they inflict on mostly women and children without prior warning. A 2012 report entitled, “Living under Drones,” (published jointly by the NYU School of Law and Stanford School of Law) described the “deaths, injuries and trauma” of people living in areas that are targeted by drones. The report puts the death toll of innocent civilians between 474 to 881 people,including 176 children. It also discusses the use of "double tap" strikes, where a drone strike is followed by a secondary attack, which kills those that attempt to rescue those that fall victim to these deadly attacks.
Spying on innocent Muslims
During the Bush Administration, Muslims were deemed as “potential terrorists” and subject to continuous monitoring and observation. Several agencies, including the New York police department and the FBI, had not only spied on Muslim and Islamic centres, but had also tried to coerced Muslims to work as spies for these agencies to gather intelligence on fellow Muslims.
According to an LA Times article published on Aug 15th 2012, the Muslim Communities in the US tried to respond by suing the FBI over this oppression. The case was filed on the basis that Muslims were being blackmailed by the FBI into spying for the agency as they would suffer consequences if they refused to cooperate. However, the Federal Court sided with the FBI, as they considered the practice justified.
In accordance to this article, the US intelligence agencies are still blackmailing Muslim citizens in the US by using personal data and controversial secrets in exchange for their services as spies. These practices have been carried on despite the promise from President Obama that he would end such practices.
One example that illustrates how far the system went in terms of pressuring Muslims to work as informants is the case of Tarek Mehanna. Tarek was arrested by FBI because he translated Youtube videos that spoke out against the occupation. Tarek was ultimately sentenced for 17.5 years by a Court on April 12th, 2012. In his defense, Mr. Mehanna stated that he was first approached by the FBI to work for them as an informant, spying over his fellow Muslims, however, due to his refusal to cooperate he was arrested and kept in detention for four years without trial. The Mehanna case led to an outcry amongst many, including Ross Caputi, an American Iraqi-War Veteran. He wrote an article in the Guardian stating that he had "done everything that Tarek Mehanna has done" but was "not sitting in a cell with him...because I am white and I am a veteran of the occupation of Iraq". The persecution Mehanna illustrates the lengths to which the Obama administration is willing to go to in terms of continuing on the policies that were initiated by the Bush Administration.
Guantanamo Bay Prison Remains Open
Barack Obama also promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year of getting into office. Although his first term as president has come and gone, the infamous prison remains open. This is in addition to the other prisons maintained by the US around the world. As we know, these prisons are notorious for their cruelty and inhumane conditions, such as those witnessed by the world in the Bagram Airbase, Abu Ghuraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons, where Muslims are illegally detained, interrogated and tortured.
In addition, we must not forget to mention our sister, Dr. Aafia Siddiqie. She was kidnapped with two of her children while her third infant was shot on the spot. Although this heinous act was committed under the Bush Administration, Dr. Siddiqie continued to be tortured under the Obama Administration, and was ultimately sentenced to 86 years in prison for crimes that she is innocent of.
Obama: No change, just more of the same
Although Leaders and individuals around the world welcomed the re-election of Barack Obama as president of the US, it is our obligation to be politically aware and see beyond this sensationalism brought about by the media. Rasul’Allah (saw) said:
“The believer is never stung from the same hole twice.” [Bukhari]
President Obama has made many promises to the Muslim Ummah, but we have only witnessed a continuation of the same Bush initiated wars and oppression, which has cost the Ummah a countless loss of life. In addition, his administration has continued to exert American influence in the Muslims lands. For example, we saw Obama use the Egyptian military to subvert the uprising against Mubarak. As US Senator Lindsey Graham stated:
"Every American should be very appreciative of the fact that for years we've been providing aid to the Egyptian army in terms of equipment and training, because that army is our ace in the hole, as a world, to make sure Egypt doesn't go into a radical state,".
With respect to Syria, AFP reported that Obama's Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated that opposition should: "strongly resist the efforts by the extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution." and that "We are working very hard with many different elements of opposition inside and outside Syria," In other words, the US is working diligently to prevent the emergence of an independent Islamic State does not emerge from the area and that Syria remains in the grip of US hegemony.
Our only Hope is with Allah (swt)
We should rely only on Allah (swt) and upon what He has revealed to us in terms of guidance. Change in the Muslim lands will not come at the hands of secular-Capitalist leaders like Barack Obama. Rather, change will only come with the resumption of the Islamic way of life through the re-establishment of the Khilafah Rashidah in the Muslim lands according to the method of the Prophet (saw). Allah (swt) said:
"Verily Allah (swt) will not change the situation of a nation, until it changes it by itself." [TMQ 13:11]
Furthermore, it is naive to believe that Obama can bring any sort of good for Islam. We know the main problem is the underlying system in the US; not Bush or Obama. It is this Capitalist way of life and its colonialist foreign policy that is the source of misery for all human beings on the earth today.
May Allah (swt) help us to make political change based on the method of Rasul’Allah (saw), may Allah (swt) guide the Ummah, and may Allah (swt) change our position from one of weakness to one of strength.
"Be not deceived by the [uninhibited] movement of the disbelievers throughout the land. [It is but] a small enjoyment; then their [final] refuge is Hell, and wretched is the resting place." [TMQ 3:196-197]