America and the Muslims

America and the Muslims

By Mustapha Cherif

Peace and dialogue. It is urgent to improve our relationships with the first world power with the concern of frankness and independence. The dominant discourses implement an essentialist perception of the other. Each one sees the other as an opponent, and each of which forms an introverted monolithic block that does not acknowledge the right for pluralism. In the Orient, the terms: the West, Christianity, imperialism succeed each other without making distinction between them. Therefore, one should distinguish and know that the West is no longer Christian as it were centuries ago. We have Christian friends, humanists, atheists, and believers from all races, culture and countries. In the West disinformation reached its apogee. Amalgams between Muslims and fanatics are maintained even if Westerners do not succumb to propaganda.

Subverting disinformation

The imperial ambition  perceptible in its divergent dealing with religions, current opinions and conflict of interests, which haven’t disappeared, for we notes a resurgence of violence and intolerance as a hidden war of flagrant brutality, yet it is the duty of any intellectual to subvert disinformation, to work for friendship, to resist in a judicious manner, to uncover traps and avoid provocations that may bring grist to the mill of the warmongers, or feed conflictual logic, which is harmful to every one.

In the United States , despite of the divergences with the myopic aspects of European politics, despite the ethnic and cultural diversity and despite the advanced stage of liberal modernity, islamophobia remains visible. Islam is not recognized, it is targeted and stigmatized, yet the spirit of the founding fathers of the United States of America has nothing to do with extremism and xenophobia. On the contrary, Islam, however, is still an alien culture to the American citizen, who is unable to transcend its caricatural representations. Most Media and cinematographic industries present it in a univocal and erroneous manner, showing it mainly as intolerable violent and incompatible with progress.

Fortunately, few exceptions are noticed: Michael Hart, an American scientist, in his famous book The 100: a Ranking of the most Influential Persons in History, writes with courage: “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” P.03 On the other side, Muslims are inoperative in matters of thoughtful counteraction and credible, performant communication. It is crucial to relearn how to communicate, how to become role models, so that the Mohammedien qualities become visible on each Muslim and known to the Americans. Conservative and Zionist intellectuals intoxicate opinions and enclose Islam in negative clichés. They exploit the pamphleteering tone, the simplifying and reductionist fury and the amalgam against the Muslim. Although there is no hostility between civilizations, they seek, at any price, to impose the logic of shock. They resign from taking into consideration the common roots of religions and civilisations that exist as systems of meaning, which is challenged today.

The mediatic power of the lobbies that are detrimental to Islam is such as to be able to make Americans believe that Israel is the only democracy in the region, while it is a system that kills civilians and humanitarians, practice apartheid and colonialism. These lobbies deceive the international opinion by manipulating and switching roles. For instance, they speak about nothing but the only Israeli prisoner at Ghaza, whom they define as a “hostage” in the hands of Hamas. This fact overshadows the 12.000 Palestinian prisoners detained in the Israeli jails. The overwhelming majority of these prisoners are politicians, condemned for their peaceful fight for independence. Israel is a regime that imprisons any citizen without lawyer, without judgement, without motif, without time limits. This would recall to the Western opinion the practices of the Nazi occupation.

Assuming our Responsibilities:

We want peace and justice. Paradoxically, in this context of repression, arrogance and designification of the world, the Islam that resists is taken as a scapegoat. However, reason requires an objective analysis of the causes that lead Muslims to react sometimes blindly, an analysis of the Qur’an and the actual Islamic societies, with the multiple experiences, interpretations and forms of cultural practices it produces, the taking into account of historical conditions and the acknowledgment of the humanising potential of civilisation, an aspiration for change and liberty without denying the values that are deeply rooted in these societies. We must assume our responsibilities so that American citizens discover the fact that the Palestinian question is political and Islam is the religion that seeks to free persons and put them in front of their responsibilities and to socialize human relationships on the basis of a precise meaning of human life and its destiny. It is a revealed Message that stands by no means against the values of liberty, equality and pluralism, quite to the contrary.

The Declaration of Independence of the USA is a text that can be embraced by any Muslim, since it recalls the value of liberty and, particularly the liberty of consciousness. For the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution, the liberty of consciousness is the very essence of the American doctrine. As pointed out by specialized researchers, for George Washington, the first president of the USA , America was to welcome “all the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions”, notably Christian, Jewish and Muslim. The land of Islam , from Córdoba to Bagdad , passing through Fès, Tlemcen, Béjaïa, Constantine, Kairouan and Alexandrie, during centuries was a land of hospitability and a refuge for all the oppressed and persecuted, starting by jews.

John Adams, the second American president of the USA , affirmed that the prophet of Islam is one of the most eminent figures of humanity that are much concerned with coexistence. Thomas Jefferson, the third President, has learnt Arabic and declared that he used to read Quran. During his presidency, one day, he organized El Iftar at the White-House to celebrate the end of the fasting period of Ramadan. The founding Fathers reached out to the sources of the values of diverse universal civilisations, including the Muslim one, when they have adopted the political system of the USA , with their own openness to the world’s genius.

Benjamin Franklin, scientist and philosopher, joint editor and ratifier of the Declaration of Independence and ending as one of the founding fathers of USA , has studied Islam and the great text of the Islamic culture. To express his respect for Islam and his adherence to the idea of living together, he invited the Mufti of Istanbul of that time to come and present Islam to the Americans.

The tolerance of the Prophet of Islam

In 1763, Benjamin Franklin took as an example the highly humanitarian significance of the prophet’s behaviour, notably towards prisoners. In fact, that same year Americans, who claims to be Christians, committed genocides against the innocent American Indians. These Westerners, affirmed Benjamin Franklin, were more savages than the natives, emphasising the fact that the American Indians might have respect of their human dignity in a Muslim country, since, as he points out, Islam shows humanity towards prisoners.

During the war of resistance of El Amir Abdelkader in Algeria in the 19th century, this noble principle was largely practised. One hundred fifty years ago, at Damas, his heroic act, allowed to save thousands of Christians from an imminent death, during a communal disagreement. Moreover, another proof of this exemplary dimension made him worth of the founding of a small town in the USA named after him. Like El Amir Abdelkader and Voltaire, who have both practiced humanism each one according to his own level and manner, Benjamin Franklin advocated the right for pluralism and freedom of expression. He used to cite a principle: “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the right of another.”

He praises the meaning of tolerance of the Prophet of Islam, who respects the right for difference. He expresses his admiration for the Prophet, who used to urge his companions to deal with prisoners a humane way. Benjamin Franklin affirmed his admiration for Salaheddin, the sultan of the 12th century who liberated Jerusalem , making proof of his mercy. At the time being, anti Muslim racism is becoming more prominent due to narrow political calculations as

a diversion to political deadlocks, to the hegemonic aims, and blind reactions of those minorities who usurp the name of Islam, the vision of the founding fathers of Islam deserves to be underlined.

The president Barak Obama, who restores, at the formal level, the spirit of openness, should know that Muslims bear no hatred against the other and America, on the contrary, they aspires to friendship. They have simply the right be “angry” against the politics of double measures and being subjected to so much injustice. The number of foreign soldiers on Muslim lands is ten times higher than that of the time of the crusades, and the foreign investments outside oil industry are three times lower than any other region in the world.

Muslims are convinced that the words are not sufficient, it is actions, finally, that make the difference, particularly on the subject of Palestine and the democrtization of the international relations. The two American parliamentary houses, at the eve of the election coming up on next November, seem to scramble for an exhibition of their good relationship with the Zionist lobbies. Being attached to universal democracy to serve the common good, Americans should, though, impose the creation of the Palestinian state on land limits that dates back to before 1967.

Certainly, some Arab and Islamic archaic regimes have financed the terrorism of the weak, but other countries such as Algeria fought against it. Muslims, to win the hearts of so many Americans who are ready to listen to them and fight for justice and help Obama who makes efforts to improve the relationship between the Muslim and the Western world, start to become more conscious about the necessity of getting out of their victim position, readjust their situation, resist rationally and become open to the world, otherwise the American opinion will conclude that there is nothing new in the Orient.

More than one year after the speech of Obama in Cairo , the American decision makers ought to fight the causes of the problems rather than their effects and remember the American ideal of the Founding Fathers, the principles of Islam and its contribution to civilisation, for which they held great respect. This link seems to be questioned, not only since 11th of September 2001, but, especially after June 1967 and since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which opened a breach for the creation of a new enemy, who was concocted by lobbies since a given period of time.

America that Muslims respect and admire is that which was initiated by the Founding Fathers to aim at the universal and not the arbitrary. The future of the world will be decided upon between the West and the Muslim world. It is high time to get engaged in an actual dialogue rather than hymns where soothing words are repeated and cut off from reality and which legitimize situations of dominance. There is no alternative to the entente based on mutual respect related to the challenging issues of the future: the relationship between the USA and the Muslim world.

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