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A Message to President Obama

A Message to President Obama:
Work with Western Muslims to Promote Stability and Peace in the Muslim World

Dear President Obama,

This may be an extraordinary time in history, a formative period in which certain decisions can influence humanity’s direction for generations to come. The entire world – facing enormous challenges and enormous possibilities – seems to be in a reflective and transformative mood, and waits for a visionary leader to set milestones towards a better world.

You have been elected as the president of the most influential nation in the world. Your election has raised hopes and aspirations around the world – even in the Muslim world, which has often maintained a confrontational relationship with the United States. This goodwill, a rare historic opportunity, should be captured and capitalized upon for the welfare of both the Muslim world and the West. This pursuit is an enormous responsibility.

American Muslims, along with other supporters around the world, feel that the United States should offer the leadership towards a better world – not because of our military strength or wealth, but because of the fundamental ideals upon which our nation was founded over 200 years ago: equality, dignity and liberty of all people.

The United States is a legitimate leader in the world due to the unparalleled strength and resilience this nation acquired in the struggles to actualize these ideals. Let us not allow the vested interests of the few degrade the esteemed position of the many.

America has not yet achieved this position in full. Many parts of the world – including many in the Muslim world – view the US with distrust and resentment. This failure has been enormously detrimental to our interests and to the interests of other nations. Due to the pursuit of short-term gains,our leadership has failed to achieve our long-term interests. Our taxpayers are paying an enormous price and are passing down an enormous burden of debt to the next generation.

If the US retained the trust and goodwill it once enjoyed with the Muslim world – over one-fifth of humanity constituting the majority in 56 different countries and controlling over 76% of oil reserves of the world – the US could have achieved many of its objectives at a fraction of the enormous price it has already paid.

One of the greatest challenges before us, therefore, is to regain the trust and goodwill between the two most vital camps of the world to make a better world.

Constructive Engagement

In this intensely interdependent world, the pursuit of self-interest through exploitation or subservience – as in the colonial and neo-colonial periods – should be forbidden in our modus operandi and erased from our mindsets. These ideas and actions are evil, and are also costly and counterproductive.

America should know the power of constructive engagement. This nation led the world towards higher standards of collective responsibility with the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt “enemy” countries – Germany and Japan – and reshaped Europe towards progress and prosperity after the devastation of World War II.

During the Cold War, America finally abandoned the ideology of proxy wars of ‘containment’ and achieved victory through the constructive engagement of ‘détente.’

America reached out to China when she was a closed-door society and an utterly repressive regime during her ‘Cultural Revolution,’and helped her to become a global partner which benefited herself and the world enormously.

America’s leadership has achieved much good, but it has failed to achieve the same success for the Muslim world. This is an utter failure. The policies toward this vast segment of humanity have remained narrow and self-defeating and have created one of the greatest liabilities for America herself. Our policies must change now.

Due to difficulties and long-suffering stress, the patience in the Muslim world runs thin. Time is running out, and the most dangerous possibilities are lurking on the horizon.

What America calls the “Muslim world” is actually a mosaic of different tribes, sects and cultures. In many places, this mosaic is becoming increasingly volatile due to conflicts, vested interests and wars created by both inside and outside forces. A vast and fast-growing young generation in the Muslim world – deeply frustrated by authoritarian and corrupt governments as well as by outside special interests – could potentially become a bedrock of extremism. This situation necessitates a leadership which can generate an extraordinary speed of transformation.

An Effective Bridge-Builder

One powerful catalyst for change exists within America now: — the American Muslims. We are the common denominator of the two polarized camps of humanity, and we are conversant with the mindsets and lifestyles in both camps. We believe we are in the right place in a critical time in history to become agents of change. A visionary leadership from among us could facilitate dialogue and diplomacy with the Muslim world.

Recently, the PEW report established that the majority of American Muslims – 65% – were born in foreign lands. These Muslim immigrants have close ties with Muslim-majority societies and have a strong understanding of their nuances. It remains advantageous to establish ties and trust among these societies using our experience and connections.

As the PEW survey discovered, we are educated and well-established people with moderate and mainstream ideas in America. Many of us are the “cream of the crop” from many lands with diverse backgrounds and cultures.

A dynamic and forceful leadership of mediation and dialogue could be raised from among American Muslims if your administration could reach out to us. We would like to work closely with your leadership.

Cures of the Dysfunctional State

Good governance is the solution for a dysfunctional state. An accountable, transparent and representative government stabilizes a society. The legitimacy of that governance increasingly builds up trust and confidence among its people and institutions to sustain a stable and consistent pattern of rule. A broad and impartial due process exerts a strong force of social integration based on the fundamental principles of equality, dignity and liberty for all citizens.Self-rule offers important incentives for a society to become stable and progressive. Through peaceful coexistence and constructive engagement, a society can prosper and its individuals can pursue their potential. Successful democracies have successfully demonstrated these ideas.

The challenge in our time is to achieve these goals in the volatile areas of the world in order to achieve stability and to facilitate constructive engagement.

American Muslims, as beneficiaries of self-rule and good governance, could be the most powerful proponents of these ideas.

A Powerful Diplomatic Agenda to Help Replace Military Engagements

In today’s global society, a government-to-government relationship can work best when strong people-to-people understanding and dialogue exists. American Muslims could help generate this dialogue with many troubled parts of the Muslim world.

Governments need the power of persuasion through diplomacy to replace extremely costly and often unproductive military engagements. Vested interests and cynicism stand in the way of that persuasion. While we need the vision of the Marshall Plan, we need new ways to pursue that vision. The old methods of the Marshall Plan – nation-building under the wing of military occupation – might be counterproductive, as the mindset of humanity has changed substantially since the post-World War II period.

Multinational engagements would be very effective to promote constructive engagements and American Muslim leadership could be instrumental towards spearheading such an international movement.

Soul Searching

Soul-searching is long overdue. We need serious introspection in order to establish a mindset conducive towards reconciliation and progress. Why has a vast segment of humanity lost trust in our nation within the span of a few decades, even though it once had enormous trust and reverence for our nation?

Mistrust has become even more deep and widespread due to the obscuration, marginalization and ignorance of the effects of mistakes.

The world has witnessed how the CIA, under the secret persuasion of the British government and British Petroleum, ousted the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. The world has seen how the US nipped a burgeoning democracy in the bud, thus destroying the possibility of self-rule and progress in the region – perhaps in the entire “Muslim world.” The US further solidified this mistake by placing the Shah in power, supporting and sustaining his 25 years of repressive rule in the name of stability. Contrary to stabilization, America helped create a volatile region, the effects of which we are still enduring. Americans have forgotten this blunder, but for the Muslims in general and for the Iranians in particular this memory remains intact. Once the 1980s revolution deposed the Shah and instituted Khomeini, the hostage crisis enraged Americans. Vested interests capitalized upon this public outrage, and reached out to another puppet government in the neighbourhood – Saddam Hussein – to conduct a proxy war with Iran for eight years. This war resulted in over a million deaths and enormous destruction for both countries. The region was further poisoned with bloodshed and conflict, and the Muslim world drifted further apart from America, bearing more and more distrust towards our country.

The US failed to institute proper damage control for these mistakes when it was possible. This sequence of events consequently took another wrong turn, as Saddam invaded Kuwait. America conducted the Gulf War, and Americans paid the price. In the name of sovereignty the tyrant – who held his nation hostage and conducted mass-murders of citizens – was not ousted. This inaction caused another 11 years of turmoil. Thousands upon thousands of Kurds and Shiites were slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands of children starved to death. Eventually, the US became awakened to the dangerous reality of years of pent-up frustration and anger, which manifested itself in the 9/11 attacks.

Again, vested interests took full advantage of the fear and anger Americans felt, legitimizing military intervention without adequate post-war planning in the most complex and disjointed regions of the Muslim world. Again, mishandling and blunders were made, and again, the horrendous suffering of the region continued. This time, the price became so high that our nation had to thrust the enormous burden upon the shoulders of Americans of future generations.

The American people have not been presented with the true account of the long chain of causes and consequences beginning with the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the destruction of a democratic government in Iran, and continuing with the failed strategies of tit-for-tat and finger-pointing.

Afghanistan is another example of our failed leadership in the 1990s. Afghan Mujahideen fought and defeated the Russians in 1989. When the job was finished, we left them and neighbouring Pakistan out in the cold to deal with their region. This region overflowed with arms and ammunition in the absence of accountable political and social infrastructures and in the presence of a backward and narcotic-infested economy. Amnesty International and the US State Dept. warned of the dangers posed by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Was it surprising to find that the Taliban and al-Qaeda replaced the Russians during a decade of neglect? Could America blame the people of this region for distrusting America when their affairs were handled so carelessly and their lives were disrupted? Is it too difficult to see that terrorism would find a safe haven in this part of the world? The costs of these failed policies have remained incalculable.

The Deepest Source of Grievance: The Palestinian Suffering

Mr. President, the Palestinian issue remains one of the deepest sources of grievances and resentments, not just of Muslims but also of justice-loving people all around the world.

This history is like a great Shakespearean tragedy – all losers and no winner. The Palestinians lost their homes but retained their dignity in their struggles. The US lost its moral voice and leadership in the Muslim world, accrued a heavy burden of costs, and became a disingenuous promoter of peace, disliked and distrusted. The 13 million Jews of the world lost the benefit of goodwill and diplomacy with the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world, an incalculable loss for countless people indeed! Israel failed as a nation, as she failed to uphold either the dignity or the security of the Israelis, performing a terrible disservice to the true Jewish cause.

A people cannot claim dignity by denying dignity to other people. If a people live incarcerated in a tiny land – creating an ivory tower guarded by the military, unable to feel safe or to move around among neighbouring people – these people are neither free nor secure. No amount of wealth or military power could offer them liberty. Israel defeated the true Jewish cause in Israel. This superpower became a super victim – its conscience paralyzed, its due process biased and infiltrated by vested interests and its leadership blindfolded. All these parties – the Palestinians, the Americans and the Israelis – have become victims, and all need to be emancipated from bondage of different kinds: the bondage of injustice, the bondage of lack of vision and leadership, the bondage of past ideas, and the bondage of cynicism that has frozen the soul of a nation. If wisdom fails to prevail, one million walls and one million troops cannot stop the verdict of history.

It is still possible to reclaim the situation, to reconcile seemingly irreconcilable differences, and to reinstate goodwill among the followers of three great religions who lived in peaceful coexistence for thirteen centuries before the state of Israel. The pursuit of peace and justice requires a new approach. God willing, it is achievable in our time.

We are faced with an unfortunate irony. The leaders and representatives of a great nation – a nation that proclaims the inalienable rights of all people, defines nationhood on the fundamental principles of equality, and advocates an impartial due process irrespective of ethnic or religious differences – consistently violates its standards by supporting a state that violates all these values and principles.

If we do not succeed, future generations will ask this question – how did America fail to convince Israel, its ally, to replace oppression with peaceful coexistence, when America successfully helped its arch-rivals, the Soviet Union and China, towards profound change?

History will not be kind to the forces responsible for such a derailment. They, individuals and institutions alike, will be discovered, and they will be exposed and targeted as culprits for generations to come.

Past Chances Missed, Future Opportunities Present

Many chances to harness forces for change came and left, and many opportunities for reconciliation knocked at our door and disappeared. We still kept our doors closed. America had many chances in the past to create a safer and better world, and to save herself from self-inflicted wounds. In 2001 and 2002, Iran helped America defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. In spite of all the past grievances, Iran stepped forward in 2003 and offered a comprehensive proposal regarding reconciliation and long-term cooperation with the US. This proposal was truly visionary, and it gave the US the upper hand. This proposal was trashed and it was also kept hidden from the American public. We must stop these costly and detrimental ways of doing business.

As you pointed out repeatedly, we cannot hope to see a change until the old ways are changed.

How important is it for America to have a constructive partnership with the Muslim world? What direct bearing does a stable and prosperous Muslim world have on the interests, security and welfare of America? Aaron David Miller, a long-term Middle East negotiator and scholar, succinctly addressed these questions by stating, “The greatest threat to our national interest is not going to come from an ascending China or economically powerful Europe or former Soviet Union seeking to regain its glory. It is going to come from divided, angry and dysfunctional and conflict ridden Middle East and Arab and the Muslim world.”

One great failure of global diplomacy involves the stereotype of America as a monolithic villain, with an intent on intimidating, manipulating and dominating others through an enormous military presence. The world has failed to notice that America is not a monolithic nation. This is the most diverse, open, and pluralistic nation in the world. The world fails to realize that America is the most self-reflecting, self-critical and self-correcting society in the world. At any given time, and on any given issue, many good people struggle against evil. Unfortunately, we sometimes only see the final outcome of these struggles.

It pains us, the American Muslims and our supporters, to witness the confrontational relationship between our nation and the greater Muslim world community [the “ummah”] that we belong to. We, therefore, desire a win-win outcome. We can help you to end this confrontation.

A sincere and visionary leader like yourself can help dissolve these barriers, as you have a forceful national mandate as well as overwhelming international goodwill. We are counting on you, and you can also count on our sincerity and dedication to this great vision.

Sincerely,

Ruby Amatulla, President

Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress (MPJP)

[Sign this letter] [View the signers]

SUPPORTED AND ENDORSED BY THE FOLLOWING MUSLIM LEADERS:

(in alphabetical order, new names will be added every week):

  • ABDULLAHI AHMED AN-NA’IM, J.D, Professor of Law at Emory University, Georgia, USA
  • ABDUR RAB, PhD, Author, Georgia, USA
  • ADIS DUDERIJA, Ph.D. Candidate, Centre for Muslim States and Societies, University of Western Australia, Perth, AUSTRALIA.
  • AFTAB ALAM, Teacher, Progressive Activist, PAKISTAN
  • AHMAD SUBHY MANSOUR, PhD, Author, President of International Quranic Center, EGYPT and West Virginia, USA
  • AISHA JUMAAN, PhD, MPH, President of Islamic Society of Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  • AISHA MUSA, PhD, Professor of Religious Studies at Florida Int’l University, Florida, USA
  • ALI BAHZADNIA, MD, Former cabinet member of the Islamic Republic of Iran, California, USA
  • ALI IHSAN GULEC, MD, Progressive Activist, Philosopher, TURKEY
  • ALPER BILGILI, PhD, Progressive Activist, Author, TURKEY
  • ALTAY UNALTAY, MD, Author, Progressive Activist, Istanbul, TURKEY
  • AMINA WADUD, PhD, Author, Progressive Activist, USA
  • AMIR RAHIM, Artist, Progressive Activist, USA
  • ARMAN OGILVY, Progressive Activist, Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
  • ARNOLD YASIN MOL, Theologian, Progressive Activist, Author, Founder of Deen Research Center, THE NETHERLANDS
  • ASLBEK MUSSIN, Progressive Activist, Entrepreneur, Almaty, KAZAKHSTAN
  • BACHIR DJILLALI, M.D., (Ontario Canada)
  • CANER TASLAMAN, PhD, Author, Progressive Activist, founder Quran Research Group, TURKEY and USA
  • CEMAL AKTAS, Author, Progressive Activist, Istanbul, TURKEY
  • CHIBUZO OHANAJA, Progressive Activist, President, Muslim Students Association at Notre Dame University, USA
  • CHRISTOPHER MOORE; Progressive Activist, UK and TURKEY
  • CUMHUR ERTURK, Author, Progressive Activist, Bursa, TURKEY
  • DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO, PhD, Professor, Hofstra University, USA
  • DINMUKHAMED DUISEMALIYEV, Progressive Activist, Businessman, KAZAKHSTAN
  • DIANA ALLEN, Progressive Activist, Atlanta, USA
  • DILARA HAFIZ, PhD, Author, Progressive Activist, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  • EDIP YUKSEL, J.D, Author, Progressive Activist, Professor of Philosophy, Founder of Islamic Reform, TURKEY and USA
  • EL MEHDI HADDOU, MD, Progressive Activist, Author, CANADA
  • EMAN AHMAD, PhD, Project Coordinator at CCMW, CANADA
  • FARHAD MOEENI, PhD, Professor at Arkansas State University, USA
  • FAROUK A. PERU, MA, Author and Progressive Activist, MALAYSIA and London, UK
  • FEREYDOUN TASLIMI, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Co-founder of Noor Research Corp, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  • GATUT ADISOMA, PhD., Engineer, Progressive Activist, INDONESIA
  • GERMAINE A. HOSTON, Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, California, USA
  • GHAYASUDDIN SIDDIQUI, PhD, Founder of Muslim Institute, London, UK
  • HAROON KHAN; Progressive Activist, Businessman, London, UK
  • HASAN MAHMUD, Author, Progressive Activist, Director Muslim Canadian Congress, CANADA
  • HAZIMA JAVAID, President, Muslim Students Association at Virginia Tech, USA
  • HOSSAIN KOWSARI, Author, USA
  • HUSSEIN NAJAFI, Businessman, Progressive Activist, USA
  • IBRAHIM SYED, PhD, Critical Thinker, Author, Professor, Progressive Activist, Foundation of Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. (Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
  • IMAD AD-DEAN AHMAD, President, Minaret of Freedom Institute, USA
  • IRSHAD MANJI, Author, Director, Moral Courage Project, New York University, CANADA and USA
  • JAMAL BARZINJI, President, International Institute of Islamic Thought, USA
  • JEFF GARRISON, MD, Progressive Activist, USA
  • KAAN GOKTAS, Journalist, Author, Progressive Activist, TURKEY
  • KANI XULAM, Progressive Activist, Author, Founder of American Kurdish Information Network, USA
  • KASSIM AHMAD, Author, Political leader, MALAYSIA
  • KEREM ADIGUZEL, Progressive Activist, Programmer, GERMANY
  • KHALEEL MUHAMMAD, PhD, Professor of Religion at San Diego State University, USA
  • LAYTH SALEH AL-SHAIBAN, Author, Progressive Activist, Free-minds, SAUDI ARABIA
  • LINDA MOORE, Progressive Activist, UK
  • MEHDI HADDOU, Progressive Activist, Veterinary Doctor, CANADA
  • MAHMOOD MOOSA, MD, Physician; Temperance, Michigan, USA
  • MAHYAD TOUSI, CEO and Founder of BoomGen Studios, USA
  • MARTHA SCHULTE-NAFEH, PhD, University of Texas at Austin, USA
  • MATTHEW CAPPIELLO, Progressive Activist, Student at Berkeley, USA
  • MELEK AKSULU, PhD, Professor at F’rat University, TURKEY
  • MELISSA ROBINSON, Executive Director, American Islamic Fellowship, USA
  • MELODY MOEZZI, J.D, Progressive Activist, Author, USA
  • MIKE GHOUSE, Progressive Activist, Businessman, Author, Founder of World Muslim Congress, USA
  • MOHAMED HEDJAJ, PhD, Engineer, FRANCE
  • MOHAMAD MOVA AL ‘AFGHANI, Lawyer and Founder of Center for Law Information, INDONESIA
  • MUSTAFA AKYOL, Author, Progressive Activist, TURKEY
  • NAHID TASLIMI, Progressive Activist, Philanthropist, Co-founder of Noor Research Corp, USA
  • NASER KHADER, Author, Progressive Activist, Member of Parliament, DENMARK
  • NAYEEM ASLAM, Progressive Activist, Chicago, USA
  • OMAR SALIM, Student Activist, President, Muslim Student Association at the University of Arizona, USA
  • RADWAN A. MASMOUDI, PhD, Founder and President of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, USA
  • RAYMOND CATTON, Progressive Activist, Co-founder of Quran Society, CANADA
  • REZA ASLAN, PhD, Author, Media Consultant, USA
  • RICHARD S. VOSS, PhD, Professor at Troy University, Georgia, USA
  • RIFFAT HASSAN, PhD, Professor of Humanities at Louisville University, USA
  • ROY MARTIN, JD, Lawyer, Tucson, USA
  • RUKHSANA GHOUSE, Community Activist, USA
  • SADRUDDIN NOORANI, Director, Friends of Humanity, Switzerland
  • SAFIA ANSARI, Vice President, Muslim Students Association at Georgia State University, USA
  • SALAM AL-MARAYATI, Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), USA
  • SEDAT TATLICAN, Businessman, Progressive Activist, TURKEY
  • SEVKI INAN, Businessman, Turkish Professionals in the USA
  • SHABBIR AHMAD, MD, Author, Progressive Activist, Founder of Our Beacon, Pennsylvania, USA
  • SHAKIRA B KARIPINENI, MD, California, USA
  • SOPHIA CATTON, Progressive Activist, Co-founder of Quran Society, CANADA
  • SUKRAN KIVRAK, JD., LL.M, San Diego, USA
  • T.O. SHANAVAS, MD, Author, USA
  • TUFAN KARADERE, Engineer, Progressive Activist, TURKEY
  • TAJ HARGEY, PhD, Progressive Activist, Professor at Oxford University, MECO chairman, UK
  • TAYFUN TIMINCI, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, TURKEY
  • THANNA RAJAPAKSE , Student Activist, Co-chair of the Muslim Student Association at Santa Clara University, USA
  • TURKI AL-BALAWI, Student Activist, Treasurer, Muslim Student Association at Saginaw Valley State University, USA
  • USAMA QADRI, President, Muslim Students Association at Yale University, USA
  • YASAR NURI OZTURK, PhD, Author, theologian, Political leader, TURKEY
  • YEMIN DICKINSON, Entrepreneur, Progressive Activist, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • YESIM KOYUNCU, Instructor, Istanbul, TURKEY
  • ZUNAIRA ISLAM, M.D, Karachi PAKISTAN

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