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
October 17, 2014
Mr. President: Exactly one week ago, last Friday, Malala Yusufzai a 17-year old
Muslim girl, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize -- the youngest person to ever
receive the honor.
One might have thought it would help to quell the anti-Muslim rhetoric become
increasingly common, but no such luck. Mr. Maher's fulminations continue. Wrong on
facts but glib of mouth he proceeds apace.
For example, he blames Islam for genital cutting. Wrong! It is an East African
tradition practised also by non-Muslims in the region. Clearly not Islamic because
none of the other one and a half billion Muslims across the globe practise it.
He blames Islam for honor killings. Wrong again! On the Indian subcontinent, Sikhs
and Hindus are equally guilty.
He claims you can be executed in Pakistan for blasphemy. True the much reviled
series of laws introduced by a General Ziaul Haq seeking support from the religious
extremists were put on the books. But the sentence is always commuted and no one
has ever been executed. There is also every likelihood the laws will be repealed
eventually. After all, the country's founder Jinnah was a well-known liberal who
welcomed all faiths into the new country and was married to a Parsi (Zoroastrian).
My question is simple: Mr. President, you have a Muslim name; your father and
stepfather were Muslims; you have Muslim relatives including a stepsister. So why the
silence in the face of clearly hateful and racist speech? Not just this observer's view
but that of the highly respected Guardian newspaper.
Malala is an institution now, politically savvy and careful with her words. Her country
has been left with a Taleban problem the opposite of the US. It is fighting the
Pakistan Taleban who look to their Afghan brethren for succor. To think there were
no borders from Iran to Burma under the Muslim Mughals. Yes, the same ones who
built the Taj Mahal and Old Delhi. It is their descendants who are now holed up in
Pakistan while Mr. Modi inducts more BJP party leaders from the extremist RSS, and
the latter's chief Mohan Bhagwat says India is a Hindutva culture and all Indians are
Hindus. Some solace for the twenty percent of Indians belonging to other faiths
(Muslim, Christian, Sikh and others).
It was because of these reasons the liberal, and not religious (he married a
Zoroastrian as noted earlier) in the fundamentalist sense, founder of Pakistan fought
for a separate state, his liberal vision now subverted in a country shaded by
extremism Sunni on Sunni and Sunni/Shia violence.
Malala's co-winner Kailash Satyarthi is a 60-year old who has fought the exploitation
of children through child labor, and for their rights to education. The Nobel committee
noted the "important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, and an Indian and a Pakistani, to
join in a common struggle for education and against extremism."
A month ago (August 29) this letter asked you to take the lead in bringing the leaders
of these two countries together for peace talks. They were both present in New York
for the start of the new General Assembly session, and Mr. Modi had just canceled
the preparatory meetings between the chief foreign policy civil servants (Foreign
Secretaries) of the two countries. Now, the situation has deteriorated further with
cross-border mortar fire in a densely populated farming area of Kashmir that has
taken many lives. The reasons for bringing peace between the two included the
struggle against extremism in both countries and the danger of nuclear confrontation.
Current escalations in rhetoric and action add to the urgency.
Will the Nobel decision spur this country into something positive? -- like persuading
Mr. Modi to drop the shenanigans ahead of the December election in Kashmir (where
the leaders the Kashmiris really favor are never allowed to stand anyway) and come
to the table.