Republished below is an open letter we received from a new organization, Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress. An extended version and list of signers is available at the group’s web site, www.mpjp.org.

Dear President Obama,

This is an extraordinary time in history, especially for you. You are now the president of the most influential nation in the world.

We face a formative period in history, and a few relatively small decisions could influence humanity’s direction for generations. The entire world faces enormous challenges simultaneously with enormous possibilities, and waits for a visionary leader to set milestones towards a better world.

As allies for peace, justice, and progress at www.mpjp.org, we believe that America has not succeeded fully in its goals towards positive and constructive leadership. Many parts of the world, including the Muslim world, view the US with distrust and resentment. This diplomatic failure has been enormously detrimental to our interests and the interests of other nations.

If the US had retained the trust and goodwill it once commanded over the Muslim world, this country could have achieved its objectives for a fraction of the enormous price it has already paid. We must regain that former trust and goodwill. American Muslims are a common denominator between these two camps, and they could help to build a bridge between these two societies.

CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT

America should know the geopolitical and social benefits derived from constructive engagement. This nation led the world towards higher standards of collective responsibility through the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt “enemy” countries Germany and Japan and developed a prosperous Europe after a devastating World War II.

During the Cold War, America finally abandoned the ideology of “containment’ and achieved victory through “détente,” a policy much closer to constructive engagement than previous Cold War policy decisions. America reached out to China when it became a closed-door society during its “Cultural Revolution,” and helped the nation towards its emergence as a global partner.

While America has exemplified true political leadership throughout the world, it has failed to carry this leadership to the Muslim world, a community comprising one-fifth of the world which controls 76% of its oil reserves. The foreign policy blunder has created a national security liability for America itself.

Due to enormous unsolved political difficulties, the patience in the Muslim world towards positive social change runs thin. The area America calls “the Muslim world” actually consists of numerous tribes, sects and cultures. Sectarian wars vested interests, both within and outside national borders, severely threaten local and regional stability. A vast and fast- growing youth population in the Muslim world remains troubled, because corrupt governments and outside special interests manage their societies. This younger generation could lead the Muslim world towards either democratic progress or violent extremism. Your administration needs talented, knowledgeable, and committed individuals to work towards the first option.

Good governance can stabilize both types of dysfunctional states. An accountable, transparent and representative government stabilizes a society. A broad and impartial due process based on the principles of equality, dignity and liberty of all citizens exerts an enormous force of societal integration. Successful democracies in the world have successfully demonstrated these ideas in action.

Recently, a PEW report stated that the majority of American Muslims – 65% — were born in their native land. As the survey discovered, they are well educated and well-established people with both moderate and mainstream ideas. These Muslim immigrants have close ties with Muslim-majority societies.. Your administration could use America’s Muslim population as a common denominator to help establish ties and trust amongst those societies.

A POWERFUL DIPLOMATIC AGENDA

While we look to the Marshall Plan as an effective example for reform, we need new ways to pursue that vision. Nation-building and military occupation under Marshall-Plan-like policies now causes conflict, as the mindset and modus operandi of humanity has changed substantially since World War II.

Networks of transnational vested interests have increased substantially, making a Marshall Plan exorbitantly costly and potentially corrupt. We need a powerful diplomatic agenda to replace military engagement in order to achieve mutual success.

What could occur if we choose antagonistic engagement as an alternative? 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 witnessed how the US nipped a burgeoning democracy in the bud, destroying the possibility of self-rule and progress in the region. The US further solidified this mistake by placing the Shah in power, supporting and sustaining his 25 years of repressive rule. Americans have forgotten this blunder, but the memory remains intact in the minds of Iranians. Once the 1980s revolution deposed the Shah, special interests capitalized upon American outrage towards the hostage crisis. They reached out to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, leader of a puppet government, to conduct a proxy war with Iran. This resulted in thousands and thousands of deaths.

This violent sequence of events consequently took another wrong turn — Saddam invaded Kuwait. America conducted the Gulf War, and Americans paid the price. In the name of sovereignty, Americans chose not to depose the tyrant. Thousands of Kurds and Shiites were slaughtered, and thousands of children starved to death. Eventually, the US became awakened to the dangerous consequences of pent-up frustration, as the 9/11 terrorist attacks metastasized their way onto American soil.

We can cite Afghanistan as another example of failed antagonistic leadership. Afghan Mujahideens fought and defeated Russians in 1989, but American leadership left them and neighboring Pakistan helpless to deal with their own arms overflow in their region. Nowadays, both a lack of accountable political infrastructure and a narcotics-based economy have removed regional stability. Was it surprising to find the Taliban and al-Qaeda replacing the Russians during a decade of neglect? Could America blame Afghanis and Pakistanis for distrusting the superpower if it disrupted their lives? Is it too difficult to see that terrorism would find a safe haven in that part of the world?

A DEEP SOURCE OF GRIEVANCE: PALESTINIAN SUFFERING

A high-level political leader must also understand one of the deepest source of grievances and resentments for the “Muslim world,” as well as all peoples around the world who respect peace, justice, and progress. Over a period of decades, the Palestinians have lost countless numbers of homes and lives, often struggling to maintain the dignity of peace in surroundings fraught with resentment and reactionary extremism. In their policy decisions, the US has lost its moral voice and leadership in the “Muslim world” and accrued a heavy burden of costs. Many of the 13 million Jews of the world lost goodwill with many of the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world, an incalculable loss in collective security.

It is still possible to reclaim the situation, reconcile seeming irreconcilable differences and 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 justice, courage and vision requires a new approach. God willing, it is doable in our time.

If we don’t move towards real change, future generations will look angrily upon a superpower that failed to convince Israel to change the oppressive aspects of its policies, even though it successfully helped its Communist arch-rivals to change profoundly.

PAST OPPORTUNITIES MISSED, FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENT

America missed many chances to create a more peaceful world. In 2001 and 2002, Iran helped America defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. In spite of all the past grievances, Iran then stepped forward in 2003 and offered a comprehensive proposal of reconciliation and long-term cooperation with the US. This proposal was truly visionary, and gave inconceivably large concessions to the US. Special interests also kept this secret hidden from the American public, and trashed it for purposes of convenience. We must stop these costly and detrimental ways of doing business.

Why should America maintain a constructive partnership with the Muslim world? Aaron Miller, a long term Middle East negotiator and scholar, recently said that “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 a divided, angry and dysfunctional and conflict ridden Middle East and Arab and the Muslim world.” (June 2, 2008, PBS’s Charlie Rose)

The world envisions America as a monolithic villain, with special interests that manipulate and dominate others, often through an enormous military presence. The world has failed to notice that America is not a monolithic nation. It 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, self-correcting society in the world.

It pains the American Muslims and their supporters to witness the confrontational relationship between America and the global Muslim community. A sincere and visionary leader like yourself could help dissolve these barriers, as you have a forceful national mandate as well as overwhelming international goodwill. All of us are counting on you, as you could count on our sincerity and dedication to this great vision.

—–

Ruby Amatulla is president of Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress, www.mpjp.org.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR