Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
August 10, 2012
Mr. President: Two houses of worship were attacked this week, one widely reported,
the other ignored by the mainstream media became known through the blogosphere.
The attack on the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek (just outside Milwaukee) Wisconsin,
left seven dead and many more injured. Despite the incident being identified as an
act of domestic terrorism, the media continued to define the white perpetrator as a
'gunman' never a 'terrorist;. That label seems reserved for Muslims or Arabs, as in
the case of the disturbed military psychiatrist who turned on fellow soldiers. And it is
only when a perpetrator has a Muslim name is religion brought into focus. Philosophy
professor Falguni Sheth has remarked upon the framing of these incidents to align
them with our current prejudices, and columnist Glen Greenwald comments on the
other incident, the burning and razing of the mosque in Joplin, Missouri (see the
Commentary Articles section). Muslim residents of Joplin have had threatening graffiti
painted on their homes. It was about a half century ago that black churches were
being burned in the South, so the target has changed but not the thinking.
Our war on terror, principally against two Muslim countries, despite the lack of any
connection between their populations and 9/11, has spawned a deluge of tracts on
the internet trashing Muslims, their religion, and civilization. Never mind there are
over a billion Muslims in this world with different sects, religious practices, cultures
and traditions across a varied landscape as diverse as Christianity; no, these tracts,
finding fertile ground in their audience's ignorance of world history or geography,
treat Islam as a monolith of violence, trouble making and terrorism.
Reality, of course, is very different. We take for granted the algebra and Arabic
numerals including the magical concept of zero passed on to us by Muslim
mathematicians that now make it possible to read this piece on the internet. The
same can be said for the sciences. Islamic philosophy's different branches examined
questions of religion and reason: Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroes, the
founder of Averroism), and others who furthered Greek philosophy were instrumental
in transmitting it to the Christian West; the torch of human knowledge continues to be
passed on making life richer for us all.
The Olympics provide welcome relief from the troubles in our world. The women's
1500 meters had Muslim women (from Turkey and Bahrain) winning gold, silver and
bronze medals. That such facts are seldom factored in by the media when it pounces
on the veil is no longer surprising. That the Egyptian synchronized swimming team,
despite the turmoil in Egypt, managed to beat out Australia; that the mixed doubles in
the French Open has been won by an Indian Muslim woman also competing at the
Olympics; that the top Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina is an ethnic Muslim Tatar,
who won gold in the uneven bars; that rhythmic gymnast Aliya Garayeva from
Azerbaijan is a world bronze medalist; that is all ignored when Muslim women are
stereotyped in the media as without rights. Yes, a small minority, not unlike orthodox
Jewish men in ringlets and long dark coats, choose to veil themselves, and if they
want to they should. Why must their choice be criticized in a free society?
That the world record for the mile is held by a Moroccan; that Mohamed Farah is the
5000 and 10,000 meters world and likely Olympic champion; that Iran and Central
Asian republics win a disproportionate number of Olympic wrestling medals; that is all
ignored when a Muslim man attempts to board an airplane. Official sanction of
stereotyping leads eventually to media and public bias. It is time to stop.
Sir, your condolence call to the Sikh community of Oak Creek was commendable. But
the terrified and victimized Muslims of Joplin are still waiting.