New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, and the Fate of America

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2008-01-23

As we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on a national holiday dedicated to his honor, many people point to the surging presidential candidacy of Barack Obama as evidence of how far this country has come in terms of race relations since the days of the Civil Rights struggle led by Dr. King. Many see Obama’s campaign as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. As they would point out, here is a man who is being judged based on the content of his character, and not on the color of his skin. Could anything be more representative of the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream than that?

While it is certainly heartening to see such a strong candidacy from an African American, Obama’s run for the presidency sheds light on the nuances of race relations in this land in interesting ways. It also sheds light on the way Dr. King’s legacy has been shaped in a way to make many of the forces that were extremely uncomfortable with him at the end of his life, “accept” him in his death. Those are the same forces, to a large extent, that are willing to “accept” Obama, as long as he stays away from the sort of issues that probably cost Dr. King his life.

At the end of his life, Dr. King was anathema to those interests and individuals who collectively form the ruling coalition in this country. His strident opposition to the Viet Nam War, his fearless advocacy for the poor, for the unrepresented and the underserved of this country, and his increasingly bitter condemnation of both the apathy of the middle class, along with what he saw as the hypocrisy of the Christian establishment all earned him the ire and the vehement condemnation of powerful whites, along with a significant number of African American leaders who felt he was going beyond the demands of the Civil Rights movement.

Despite the impression given by the popular celebrations associated with his holiday, Dr. King’s legacy was not captured by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963. In that speech King appealed to the moral consciousness of America, expressing his hope for an equal and equitable society, which he viewed as achievable at that time. However, confronted with the depth of the oppressive segregation of Northern ghettos, the nagging intransigence of the poverty confronting both blacks and whites in the rural south, and the blatant hypocrisies of the political establishment, highlighted by the war in Viet Nam, King began to articulate a different message. That message was captured in his damning indictment of American militarism, corporate greed, and stultifying oppression, articulated in his definitive statement of opposition to the war in Viet Nam, “Viet Nam: A Time Comes When Silence is Betrayal,” a speech he delivered April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death.

The following lengthy excerpt from that speech demonstrates how Dr. King had grown in his thinking to link the oppressive nature of American policies abroad with the brutal realities facing the poor at home. He said:

There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Viet Nam and the struggle I, and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor ̶ both black and white ̶ through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Viet Nam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures such as Viet Nam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia or East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such a cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason [for opposing the war] moves to a deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the past three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked me, and rightfully so, what about Viet Nam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today ̶ my own government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent…

Dr. King went on to say:

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken ̶ the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…

In the aftermath of that speech Dr. King was condemned by many African American leaders such as Whitney Young and Roy Wilkins. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who saw himself as a great friend of the “Negro” people was irate. The growing schism between Dr. King and the power structure had been cemented. However, King proceeded to deepen his analysis, which illustrated how oppressive American policies abroad were inextricably linked with unacceptable social and political conditions at home.

Herein lays Dr. King’s legacy, an uncompromising struggle against the “giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.” That aspect of his work and teachings is unmentioned in the mainstream media. Instead his baritone refraining of “I have a dream” fills the airwaves. After his death, the struggle against those evil “triplets” was not allowed to exist as his enduring legacy. Instead, that legacy has been whitewashed, sanitized and rendered “acceptable” for middle class sensitivities. 

What does all of this have to do with Obama? Obama is a viable African American candidate because he has steadfastly refused to deal with the issues Dr. King was dealing with at the end of his life, even though they are just as relevant today as they were forty years ago. That refusal has seen him distance himself from his activist pastor, Minister Jeremiah Wright. It has seen him avoid any public identification with Rev. Jesse Jackson, a fellow Chicagoan, or similar leaders who are identified with African American civil rights advocacy, and it has seen him ignore issues of relevance to African Americans and the urban and rural poor today.

Saying that is not to argue that Obama should be another Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. Although he consciously choose to identify with the African American urban community during his years of activism in Chicago’s south-side ghetto, his immigrant father, his white mother, and the fact that he was raised in part by his white grandparents have created powerful realities in his life that have prepared him to have an intrinsic appeal to a far wider audience. Hence, Obama is naturally more than just a “black” leader. However, the fact that he cannot, amongst his other positions, continue to even mildly advocate for an African American community that is in deep crisis reveals much about the nature of our politics and society.

This is not meant to be an indictment against Obama. It is an indictment against an American society which has deemed that an open advocate for such issues is unfit to lead this nation. If advocating ending the policies that are working to send hundreds of thousands of mostly young African Americans to prisons, a large percentage of them nonviolent offenders; if working to advance critical policies such as serious gun-control legislation, legislation that would challenge the powerful National Rifle Association, while black youth are mercilessly gunning each other down in the streets of our inner-city neighborhoods (and white youth are gunning down people in our high schools and college campuses); if working to effect a fair and just solution to the problem of meaningful Palestinian statehood; if seeking to take effective measures to begin serious structural changes in the international division of resources, profits, and labor; if challenging the sanity and the long-term economic destructiveness of defense budgets that exceed 500 billion dollars annually are all issues that cannot be realistically approached because they would render a candidate unelectable, then it is not time to hail the coming of an acceptable African American presidential candidate, it is time to take a long and hard look at the nature and functioning of our political system.

As long as we politely skirt the fundamental problems plaguing our country, starting with the superficiality of our race relations, Obama’s candidacy and possible election do not represent any real change, they represent a re-entrenched status quo, and illustrate the sort of duplicity that would hound Dr. King as a traitor and communist at the end of his life yet enshrine him as a martyr after his death.

These issues have deep consequences for the fate of this nation. If real change is to begin in this country it has to begin now and it has to begin with a deep and honest effort to understand the dangerous implications of maintaining the status quo. To conclude in the words of Dr. King, once again from the defining words of his anti-Viet Nam war speech:

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, on injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. …

The election of an African American, or a woman for that matter, without an associated “revolution of values” will do no more than possibly delay, but will not stave off, this country’s inevitable spiritual demise.

 


Comments

By ayesha on January 24, 2008 at 8:37am

SubhanAllah. Thank you Imam Zaid. Its hard to believe how little we truly know about the message of Martin Luther King Jr., inspite of streets in almost every American city named for him, and free posters of his "I Have a Dream" speech handed out on the holiday named for him. The speech you excerpted is very relevant to today's policies and events. Perhaps posters should be made of it as well. Its not surprising then that the name Malcolm X has almost been erased from mainstream American history. As for Obama, don't be discouraged, we have to choose the best candidate, there is no perfect candidate. A democrat may be elected because people are embarrassed by the blatant warmongering of Republicans. However, that does not relay fears that the same policies will be pushed, albeit in a much more discreet manner. According to what I have read, in Bill Clinton's presidency, more bombs were dropped on Iraq than during the first Gulf War by Bush Sr. It just took place very quietly and without a declaration of war. Thank you again for teaching us what we thought we already knew.

By faruq on January 24, 2008 at 1:03pm

Surely this problem is not specific to the Afro-American experience and points raised here transpose directly on to any community in a democracy? Contenders in any democracies have to appeal to participants in that democracy. Focusing on issues relevant to the greatest numbers of participants is politically expedient. If Hilary campaigned just for women she ain't gonna get the win the male vote. Isn't there a danger of victimising a specific community when what's being described is a actually universal problem? On possibly a related note, many Muslims in Britain blame racism or Islamophobia for low employment in their community yet the Hindu community has greater employment than their white counterparts, despite the fact that the host community is so ignorant they are unable to discern between Muslim, Sikh or Hindu. Quite frankly it doesn't befit a Muslim to revel in being a victim. Surely a Muslim should be more embarrassed of being a victim considering the Muslim community's legacy of being the victor?

By ayesha on January 24, 2008 at 6:20pm

Faruq, I agree that Muslims should not victimize themselves. I don't know many that do, but we can increase our support for each other in business and other endeavors. This article is not directed only at the plight of African Americans. Obama is used as a symbol of American tolerance and nonprejudicism. However this equality is still not really more than skin deep as Imam Zaid points out. Important issues are still ignored or swept aside, while easier to handle feel-good statements cover them up. The hard issues that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of are not being addressed, as we repeat history only 40 years later. As Imam Zaid points out both African Americans and other groups choose to avoid these issues, then and now. Some even further their degeneration with the type of vulgar and sexist music and images they are portraying of Black peoples. There is no blame on only one group or class of people. It is a collective realization and responsibility. Yes, an election in America is a popularity, power and campaign money contest; a real democracy would not require support from certain lobbies (many from outside the country) to win an election. Perhaps the best form of government is a Shura Council, in which a group of elders and experienced and knowledgeable individuals from different walks of life and backgrounds ran the country based on merit and character. Also on a tangent: a government based on the Quranic Shura may work for countries such as Pakistan which has many varying ethnic and regional peoples.

By razi on January 25, 2008 at 2:50am

The criticism of Obama is, I feel, unjust and unwarranted. First, even if we agree as to the claims that Obama has refused to address the issues, why can we not appreciate this as calculated politics to put him in a position where he can address these issues at a time when there are those voices who are working to systemically entrench the status quo? secondly, no examples were given of how Obama has supposedly shied away from the issues. On the contrary, Obama has many times mentioned that he was a civil rights attorney in chicago, he has campaigned in poor rurual communities in South Carolina, and he has adressed the 'politics of fear' of the Republicans. Lets not fingerpoint Hilary or Obama, but support them against the obvious problematic alternative. The question is if the great Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, would he criticize Obama or work against the Republican alternatives?

By Sol on January 25, 2008 at 5:53am

Salaam Imam Zaid, That is a beautiful article; I think the way you encapsulated it at the end as a "re-enhanced status quo" is perfect; as someone that was a foreign campaign worker for one of the candidates you mentioned, I must say that you are absolutely correct about the conscious decisions some have made to distance themselves from the real issues which needed fixing; and instead have aligned themselves with positions that make them electable...not necessarily virtuous or right in a moral sense. Everything is tied to money and votes. Perhaps inherent in the nature of demagoguery is appealing to what most people care about; or more precisely, what people with the most votes or most money care about. And so virtue is just a cloak that can be shed or worn as needed. Fundamental change needs to arise in the way our leaders are elected or in the way people conceive of what it means to be a citizen in this collective body. First in our communities but next in our nations. We need a re-inspired notion of civic virtue , not just a black face on the ballot. And I think Dr. King understood that. Subhanallah, my apologies for going to far afield, but your article is really a fantastic one. May Allah support you in your work and efforts.

By Tammy on January 25, 2008 at 9:44am

Thank you Imam Zaid for this wonderful article as usual. I was always facinated be Mr King's legacy. Despite everything you have said about Mr. Obama, to me he is the only one worth electing. I have seen the continuous racism against African Americans as well as other ethnicities. But what is bothering me the most about this election is that the rumors that Obama is a Muslim is the thing that is getting him and not the fact that he is African American... I feel that the Muslim community is going through the same ordeal as Jewish American has gone through in the 30s and as African Americans have always been going through...all that prejudice and discrimination in all walks of life is unbearable.. Nobody from all the candidates are talking about the religious discrimination although the right to worship is a right preserved by the first ammendment... As a Muslim woman I cannot but feel saddened by how visible Muslim women are being treated. It has sadened me to the point that I hide my religion from people... I don't go to the Mosque... it is sad to feel that way in the land of the free... That's why I see Mr Obama being elected is a step towards changing what the mold of a leader has to look like in public life. And I really was hoping that our Muslim leaders would take actions and go to those debates to ask the candidates: If racial denigration is a sin, what about religious bigotry? The other party is basing their election on what is called Islamofascism! That can only do further damage to our community here! yes we are victimized and anyone who says that just happens to be apathetic the siege we are facing.

By FMoghul on January 26, 2008 at 2:50am

Thank you so much Imam Zaid!!!! SubhanAllah! I thought Obama may be the candidate for me early in the campaign but then I saw him rapidly moving towards the status quo, especially in terms of foreign policy. Boy was I ticked off! Just more of the same! And the mainstream media doesn't make it any better wondering whether we're going to vote 'our race' or 'our gender!' Audhobillah!

By AN on January 26, 2008 at 9:44pm

Thank you so much Imam Zaid. Your articles are always enlightening.

By Orcan on January 27, 2008 at 12:35am

This is the first time I disagree with Imam Shakir. As much as I would like to agree with this article, I can't. Obama is not there to represent only African Americans, because if we believe that we are also unable to see him as something more than only another black person. It should be normal that a black person represents everybody and that is exactly what he is doing. I see his tactic much smarter than that of King or James. You can't become a president if you declare you represent only the minorities. You should not be an idealist respected Imam, you know there is a racial discrimination. Meaning, should he putt an accent on his race he will never be able to win. We need to support him to win the elections, only than will he get a chance to change something. If we start saying it will bring only status quo, than you suggest we should be nihilists and vote for republicans, because nothing will change. Sorry respected Imam but that is not true. Obama should not be compared to activists for black rights, because that is not what he is; he is a candidate for presidency. And he can't discuss the Palestinian question now; the Jewish lobby would crush him if he did. He needs to win first. Anyway, how can we expect Christians to solve the problem when our "brothers" in Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, could solve the problem in one day if they wanted? Saudi Arabia could say to USA, no Palestine no oil. But we betrayed our deen and we expect others to help us. Anyway this is not the time to criticise Obama, because the right and others are successful enough in doing so, our job is to support him. Just an idea of having a black president would change the racial divisions. We lost our power in the Middle East by suspicions and small criticism; we divided when we should have united, we became vulnerable to attacks. Let

By Imam Zaid Shakir on January 27, 2008 at 10:24am

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Faruq, Tammy, Orcan and Razi, This essay was not intended to be an attack on Obama. To attempt to make that clearer I have removed the wording that stated, "This is not only an indictment of Obama..." I have great respect for Mr. Obama and appreciate what he is trying to do and the coalition he has assembled, and I do believe his election would be of immense symbolic value. However, that does not mean we cannot analyze his campaign to attempt to demonstrate some fundamental problems with politics in America and some fundamental issues and inconsistencies in American race relations. Perhaps I did not make those points clearly enough and as a result you were led to believe that the central point of the piece was to attack Obama or "revel in being a victim." Let me try to summarize what I was endeavoring to do. This article was written on the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wanted to use that occasion to attempt to show how the same realities in America that led to Dr. King's condemnation at the end of his life, and then enshrined him as a martyr after his death, by popularizing those aspects of his legacy that do not threaten the power elites of this country are the same realities that govern the acceptability or unacceptability of Obama's candidacy. Yes, a lot of what I mentioned was couched in the context of race relations. In spite of that, I do not deny that there has been tremendous progress in race relations in this country. However, there is still a long way to go before we can even begin to imagine that we are anywhere close to the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. Race has been and continues to be one of the great dilemmas plaguing this country, and yes Obama's candidacy illustrates that in subtle and not so subtle ways. Anyone doubting that should consider the recently concluded South Carolina primary. What was the Clintons' strategy? To get Obama identified as the black people's candidate. Hoping that that label would undermine his appeal to the masses of whites when the campaigns moves on to the overwhelmingly white states of the North. Will this strategy succeed? I hope not. However, the fact that a liberal presidential candidate, who views herself as a friend of African Americans, chose to resort to it speaks volumes about race relations in America. As far as victimization, I do not revel in victimization, neither as a Muslim, nor before entering Islam. I have written forcefully against it (see for example, "Islam and the Question of Nationalism", or "Reflections on Black History Month", both of which can be accessed in the Archives on the Zaytuna Institute Website). To quote from that latter article, "In conclusion, Islam is calling on us to be bigger than what the world has made us. If the world has made us members of a "disadvantaged" race, class, ethnicity, or gender, the world wants us to be dehumanized by the rage, sense of victimization, and a quest for vengeance that might ensue from those states. The collective weight of those forces, if unrelieved, can easily lead to a loss of hope." However, having said that and firmly believing in it, I know that I only escaped the systemic forces that led so many of my childhood friends to early deaths, prison, or a marginalized existence, due the grace of God and God-given strength. It is my moral obligation to work for the elimination of those forces so that those who have not been blessed in ways that I have do not have to suffer because of their inability to overcome them. Furthermore, if the kind of centrist politics you allude to, Faruq, work to keep those forces in place then it is time for the type of revolution of values Dr. King referred to change the values that inform what we desire from the political system. Take the case of Sister Tammy, above. It would be easy for me to say that I do not care what anyone says about Islam, I am going to wear my kufi everywhere I go, and if anyone has a problem with that, too bad. That is actually my attitude. However, does that eliminate my moral obligation to work for the elimination of the type of bigotry and hate speech that is creating a climate where she no longer feels that she can freely practice her religion? Would I be morally sounder if I merely imposed my personal standards and attitudes on her and demanded that she tough it out? As Muslims are we simply saying we have no higher values we wish to contribute the how, what and why of politics in this country? Should we acknowledge that the political center that accepts -for the sake of personal and economic security- the reality of the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, and a rapacious economic system that is predicated on a constantly expanding need for finite resources and the human and ecological damage that ensues from these arrangements as an irreversible fait accompli? I am not so naive to believe that these and other sad arrangements we can point to are going to be eliminated overnight. However, I am not so foolishly optimistic to believe that Obama or anyone else deeply wedded to the logic and imperatives of the social and material institutions that buttress those arrangements can likely change them. I hope I am wrong.

By faruq on January 27, 2008 at 1:08pm

Imam Zaid et al, points are duely noted and concluded that legitamacy could be claimed by all contributers. I guess every case must be judged singularly in the light of Islam.

By Orcan on January 27, 2008 at 11:57pm

Salam Alaykum, I am sorry if my comment came out harsh. Imam Shakir thank you for your clarifications. My experience with politics is rather turbulent. I come from a country (Serbia) where we (Bosniak Muslims) are not recognized as people and couldn't expect to have representatives in politics, any kind would be fine. So we always had to choose between radical candidate one and radical cndidate two, some of who were directly responsible for war crimes in Bosnia. There was never a choice for the democratic candidate. So I wanted to remind my brothers and sisters in USA to cherish the possibility of good choice. We (from the rest of the world) are following the elections, they mean a lot to the world too. May Allah bless the efforts your institute is making.

By tammy on January 28, 2008 at 10:10am

Thank you Imam Zaid for answering our comments. God bless you.

By Carey Salaam on January 28, 2008 at 5:28pm

Obama is technically all style, no substance. Perhaps that is all we Americans deserve. We like pretty people, love our soap operas, and loathe getting too deep into the issues at the dinner table. But is Imam Zaid pushing the issue a bit hard? Clinton was for the war to begin with, and their Republican opponents, it would seem, would like to see us all in labor camps. Moreover, if we expand the argument to other Black gentlemen who are widely known in America, who do we get? Snoop Dog and Michael Vick. I'm just saying.

By Jennifer on January 28, 2008 at 5:50pm

Thank you, Imam Zaid. You have done a great service by posting this lesser-known, and more relevant, speech of Dr. King. The military-industrial complex is truly destroying America from within, as the military budget continues to bloat and public education continues to crumble. Estafirullah, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

By razi on January 28, 2008 at 6:54pm

Wa

By Fedwa on January 29, 2008 at 8:51am

Salaam, Our Caucus in Minnesota is in two weeks. I agree with Imam Zaid, but I think it takes all dimensions to make that change happen. The political leader is just a face of those beneath him. I think Muslims can make a social values reform if they have conviction in their argument and enter the public square and raise awareness. We should not be afraid - nor arrogant, but recognize the place and position that we are in and step forward. I think - Allah will take the steps to meet us half way if we are sincere and connected to him. The idea is to guide and to "fix" someone are different things. Many Muslims are trying to "fix" America. To guide - you clear the path and give people a choice to take it. When you "fix" - you have a bad opinion of people and give advice in a controlling way. I would advice Imam Zaid - to create a blog similar to ours (EngageMN.com) called EngageCA.com and to lead the discussions on the issues he cites. We cannot speak on the sidelines. The Prophet did not speak on the sidelines. We need to trust that God will establish evidence to support our argument if it is on the truth. Please read www.voicelessness.com People run after materialism when they are divorced from their maker and themselves. Voice of consciousness in the face of tyranny is power. Did not Abraham, upon him be peace, use voice to argue with Nimrod? Did not God establish his voice and support it? wasalaam, Fedwa

By Amna Ahmed on January 29, 2008 at 5:39pm

Salam Imam Zaid, I certainly agree with your position; in order to be successful in the political arena, it is sometimes necessary to mend strategies in a way that would attract the majority. Jazak Allah Khair for the article. ~ Amna

By Abu Hamza on January 29, 2008 at 11:26pm

Asalamualaikum wrt Imam Zaid, I was wondering if you could comment on the issue of voting, and whether the Muslim community should expend its energies in this regard, while it is internally divided, spiritually weak, and many Muslims are literally on the verge of apostasy? Also, do you think voting in a non-Muslim system is the "lesser of two harms" as some scholars have put it? Thirdly, some have said that engaging the establishment in their arena takes away from our efforts to establish our own base. I know you have said in the past that we need to focus on the bases of power. What is more effective, voting or dawah? Jazakumallahu khairan.

By Anonymous on January 31, 2008 at 8:45am

As Salamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah, My comments are directed at Razi, and then to Sister Fedwa. As for you, Razi, I believe you make a good point when you speak of the change in approach of some of our Muslim leaders in their statements and how that parallels with what it seems that Obama's campaign has attempted to do here. Very good point. However, I don't think Imam Zaid's statements are an indictment against Obama's candidacy. I didn't take Imam Zaid's words in that way the first time I read them. Actually, if you really look closely at all it, his words are actually an indictment against the "establishment", not Obama. His point was merely that it's because of the "establishment" that Obama is forced to avoid for the most part matters of race, since it is the mainstream "establishment" media who ensures what they want the American public to hear and focus on. This includes the issues that need to be avoided due to their severe sensitivity and sometimes 'animosity' they might produce. So I think you have misunderstood the intent of the paper. Secondly, I do not agree with your idea that Barak Obama is not a tenable �African-American� candidate. Imam Zaid's saying that he is an "African American candidate" will do him no harm. Why? Because it is glaringly obvious that he is the "African American candidate" regardless of how we may try to spin it. Mainstream Americans (whites), know that, see it, and have no doubt about it. Having a father from Kenya and a Euro-American mother from Kansas makes him no different from any other "African American" who can or cannot trace his/her roots back to a particular place in the continent. The fact that we all have roots in Africa is undeniable. That's where we're from. Well, atleast some part of us is from there (most of us). You also seem to assume that one has to be from the inner city and experienced life with poor African Americans in order for one to be considered African American. This is an incorrect and very flawed generalization, because there are plenty of African Americans who live and have lived among whites all of their lives, but who still are nonetheless African Americans. Take, Malcolm X, for instance. Are we to assume that because most (or all) of his childhood education was with a majority of whites, being the only black child in the classroom, makes him not an African American? I'd think not. The truth of the matter is that while most people have allowed the white establishment (Euro-Americans) to define for all of us what "black" or "african american" is (1 drop rule), the bottom line is that in the eyes of the mainstream and african americans alike, Barak Obama is not viewed as a foreigner or immigrant to this country. He has the look, talk, accent, and sophistication of what we see as a full-fledged "American" or "African American." As for Fedwa, while I agree with you that the Prophet -may Allah grant him mercy and peace - engaged the establishment,I disagree that his attitude was one dictated by an idea that his people merely had to be "guided" as opposed to him feeling that his society needed to be "fixed." You don't guide someone unless he/she is "astray" or in "error." And if your error repeats itself and becomes an almost inseparable part of you, you need to be "fixed." On the other hand, "fixing" what is broken doesn't necessarily assume that the one who is trying to make things right lacks compassion for his people and is not eager to see his people and society improve. I understand your point I think, though, in terms of the motivational and transformational power of words. But the problem is that you are reading a little too much into the words of our Imam, and making too many assumptions that are out of place. Furthermore, Imam Zaid is just one man and has many obligations religiously. His contributions to this discussion can be known easily through media like this blog. Beyond that, if the mainstream media has a desire for people to hear from him, they will contact him if they feel there's some need to do so. Peace to you all

By Fedwa on January 31, 2008 at 7:30pm

asalaamu alaikum, My points made no assumptions. I was making a general statement, not specific to Imam Zaid in particular. Imam Zaid says: "However, having said that and firmly believing in it, I know that I only escaped the systemic forces that led so many of my childhood friends to early deaths, prison, or a marginalized existence, due the grace of God and God-given strength. It is my moral obligation to work for the elimination of those forces so that those who have not been blessed in ways that I have do not have to suffer because of their inability to overcome them. " Cannot agree with you more. Given that - it is a moral responsibility for Imam Zaid and other scholars to speak to the establishment. They cannot eliminate those forces on the sidelines. Every Scholar is one man, but a pebble in a body of water makes a ripple effect outwards. As the Arabs say, one drop of water dripping one drop at a time can break the stone, whereas a pouring gush of water cannot. The article Imam Zaid wrote should have first been submitted to major papers, and then if they did not accept it, to this blog with a byline saying which papers refused it. This way you challenge them to open the doors to Muslim voices overtime. Read the story of Prophet Musa, upon him be peace. Did he not face Firaun's magicians in the Day of Assembly or public square? God did not tell him to speak on the sidelines. All the Prophets spoke to the establishment. Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace? Those with knowledge of Islam and connected to sound scholarship have the responsibility to speak up to the establishment. We are not asking for a revolution, just educational awareness. This way - they allow a light to reach those who were not able to overcome the forces that will guide them and per chance bring them forth. The point I am trying to make is you cannot profile good people. It is just as wrong as profiling bad people. Good and evil are not images. They have many dimensions,hidden and visible. You don't know - maybe someone from the establishment might hear your voice and reflect and like the Magicians' accepted Musa, upon him be peace, will accept Islam. You don't know, you never really know, but they deserve an opportunity to hear your side -- before they are "fixed." This is how you eliminate the forces. By challenging them head on in the public square when "the sun is risen high." 20:59 Answered [Moses]: "Your tryst shall be the day of the Festival ; and let the people assemble when the sun is risen high." 20:65 Said [the sorcerers]: "O Moses! Either thou throw (thy staff first], or we shall be the first to throw." 20:66 He answered: "Nay, you throw [first]." And lo! by virtue of their sorcery, their [magic] ropes and staffs seemed to him to be moving rapidly: 20:67 and in his heart Moses became apprehensive. 20:68 [But] We said: "Fear not! Verily, it is thou who shalt prevail! 20:69 And [now] throw that [staff] which is in thy right hand -it shall swallow up all that they have wrought: [for] they have wrought only a sorcerer's artifice, and the sorcerer can never come to any good, whatever he may aim at!" 20:70 [And so it happened] and down fell the sorcerers, prostrating themselves in adoration, [and] exclaimed: "We have come to believe in the Sustainer of Moses and Aaron!" wasalaam, Fedwa

By Saliha Shakir on February 1, 2008 at 7:09pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Sister Fedwa, I serve as the publicity coordinator for New Islamic Directions. We appreciate your comments, and we take your criticisms seriously. However, you seem to be overly concerned with the idea that Imam Zaid is sitting on the sidelines preaching to the choir. Perhaps you are unaware of Imam Zaid's activities, which extend far beyond this blog. Of course, he could be doing more, however, here are just a few examples of some the things he has been involved with. He has been a regular columnist for the New Haven Register, the second largest newspaper in the state of Connecticut. Since moving to California he has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, he has been on KGO, one of the largest radio stations west of the Mississippi. This past summer he was featured in a special half an hour interview with Bill Moyers, which aired internationally on PBS. Within the last month alone he has been interviewed on the morning show of Pacifica Radio's KPFA, he has been interviewed on NPR, and participated in an extensively publicized Martin Luther King Day program sponsored the Oakland Museum. Tomorrow, February 2 or Monday February 4, 2008 (please check local listings), he will be featured, along with Mos Def, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, and others in a nation-wide broadcast (PBS) of "Prince Among Slaves", which chronicles the life of the famous Muslim slave, Ibrahim Abdur Rahman. One of the strategies of NID is expanding the venues where our scholars can participate in a wider discourse, and we are progressing in this strategy. There are limitations concerning what we can do in this regard. And of course any help is appreciated. As you say, Imam Zaid is one man, and as such he has to work to make a living, and much of his time is consumed by the obligations of his job, which is related to Islamic education, something just as vital as outreach to the mainstream of this country. We also have a strategy of developing our own independent forums where we can provide venues that allow our scholars to present their ideas freely, and over time reach a wider audience. That is the purpose of this website, and we are ahead of schedule in terms of the numbers and cross section of people we wish to reach. We are always looking for new ideas to enhance our efficacy in that regard, and appreciate your suggestions. May Allah be with you in your efforts. We pray that we can work with you in the future.

By Imam Zaid Shakir on February 1, 2008 at 7:39pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Abu Hamza, To answer your final question first, I do not think that voting (or political participation more generally) and Dawah are mutually exclusive. They can be approached in such a way that they are mutually reinforcing. If we use the political process wisely, as a venue where we can highlight the values of Islam through a carefully and wisely constructed political agenda, we can highlight a lot of the points we might try to make through Dawah to a wider audience. Herein is a critically important issue. As Muslims for us to participate in the electoral process, particularly presidential elections, with neither a clear strategy, a well-defined agenda, nor with associated forms of local political involvement, then it is highly unlikely that we can accomplish anything significant. For example, if in the coming presidential elections half of the Muslims vote for McCain or Romney and half vote for Clinton or Obama, then it would be the same as if none of us voted, because we would basically neutralize each others votes. We must have a strategy that details what we want to achieve and then identify which candidate can best deliver what we wish. Hence, voting in and of itself, divorced from other forms of political action, especially action at the local level, is not a cure-all for a community seeking to enhance its power or influence through the political system. As a faith community, strengthening our core institutions is ultimately a more important goal in terms of what we need to do to ensure the survival and viability of our religion in this part of the world. Electoral politics may be able to assist us in towards this goal. On the other hand, voting does not have to be viewed as the "lesser of two evils." If there are clear benefits we can secure for our community or people at large through the electoral process, it is incumbent on us to attempt to secure those benefits, as the essence of the Diving Law is securing benefits and warding off harm. If we are betrayed by a candidate we placed our trust in because of certain promises made to us, then we have tried our best based on the information available to us and we understand that our actions are judged based on the intentions behind them. At the end of the day, our stint in this world is to do everything we can do to attain paradise. That will be through our sincere belief in God and our service to our fellow humans. Concerning the latter there are many avenues of service and good. Whichever path a believer chooses, whether that is within or outside of the electoral political arena, may Allah bless that effort.

By Fedwa on February 3, 2008 at 5:42am

Asalaamu alaikum, First let me say, I was not trying to be disrespectful. I check the blog frequently and forward articles by Zaytuna in my activism. Also - I have done many trainings to the media, and always promote Zaytuna as the place to go to for understanding on Islam vs. West issues. There was an article 2 years ago in the Pioneer Press, after a training we did complimenting the work of Zaytuna. People went to the site and really were amazed at such scholarship is out there. The question I get is - why aren't they more public? For example - I don't think any of the scholars need to do an extra centimeter of work. The work and research is done, like this article. But you need to feed it - to the public square. You are still independent, like the American Enterprise Institute is independent, but they also feed their so called scholars/critics on Islam to the public square. I know CAIR has an ISLAM-OPED service, where articles they writeare fed to a large number of papers. Many you can ask CAIR for the contacts and expertise on this area and implement it. However, editorial boards, do not like articles from interest groups like CAIR or ADL too much. They are more open to critical thinkers or institutes. I have read many of Zaytuna's articles and forwarded them to people I know, including media outlets. I feel very strongly that the work needs to go beyond the sidelines, meaning every article they writeshould be sent out en masse to the media - like a syndicate does. You can make it free or later ask for a fee for every article that is published. People read it, and overtime - one drop at a time, the stone is broken. Finally, you and I know - these scholars are very influential - so they should make full use of that influence. I don't agree that they should limit themselves to being invited. Our Prophet, peace adn blessings upon him, lead by inviting influential people to discussion. Likewise, they should lead and have an info-session/seminars - and invite leaders/media professionals/prison personnel on topics of mutual interest. This blog can also push itself through blog services that feed into other blogs. Try blogburst for starters and contact blogs by major papers and ask them how you can connect. http://www.blogburst.com/ Forgive me, if you felt my words were hurtful - that was not intended. wasalaam, Fedwa

By TAwaad on February 3, 2008 at 6:12pm

As salaamu alaikum Imam Zaid, I think in a way, Obama has been inadvertently painted as an "Uncle Tom," especially when you view Obama's distancing himself from Jackson as a distancing from African American issues. Who anointed Jesse Jackson the sole legitimate articulator of African American issues? Many people, including myself, cannot take him or Al Sharpton seriously, partly because they do strike a victimized tone and partly because of the energy they expend on seeking political office. We need to ask ourselves, is there really a day when such people will say, "We have arrived"? It has become their life's work to say, "We have not arrived." We need new people, like Obama, who say, 'You know, we have a lot of problems still, but I do not need the rhetoric of "arrival," I trust that whites will see me for who I am.' And it is because Obama does not constantly invoke the yardstick of "arrival" that whites feel Obama is someone who has not indicted them as perpetual racists. If he comes to power and tackles those issues, whites are willing to listen. I come from the Northeast, where I have experienced myself unsolicited hostility even outright racism, from Blacks--a sort of reverse effect where the world owes them something and they feel White people today should suffer their scorn because of the past. I have experienced this myself and oddly enough, I do not notice the same mentality from African American Sunni Muslims. Something about Islam has given them peace, and has put them "on the path from victims to victors," to use the phrase from Cosby's book. Not to say that the rest of this article is not thought-provoking, as I've come to expect from Imam Zaid...but I disagree how Obama has been put into a box, where he is seen as operating within the "white power structure" if he does not interact with Persons X, Y, and Z or Organizations A, B, and C which supposedly gauge how "progressive" someone is. Perhaps the Old Guard is no longer effective and a new approach is needed.

By ayesha on February 4, 2008 at 10:24am

As Salaam Alaikum All, Imam Zaid is right, we need to learn from past mistakes. In this upcoming election we need to vote for the same candidate, if we want our votes to make a difference. Learn from other religious groups such as Jewish people and stay united. Imam Zaid says below in an interview on Counterpunch, that Obama is likely the best candidate. So all Muslims should VOTE OBAMA. This election may be important to our fate and to the fate of the world. We must be grateful for the opportunity and realize that God has placed us here, at this time for a reason. WE MUST VOTE OBAMA - he may not be everything that is needed, but the alternatives are far, far worse. (And Ron Paul does not have a chance so dont waste your vote on him). SHAKIR: "I think there is promise in Obama based on some of his pronouncements. And perhaps what I mention about race relations is that it won't scuttle his candidacy, but that remains to be seen. I'm still honestly looking at this situation and assessing where it would be best to place a particular emphasis. But, it's slim pickings out there."

By Ibrahim on February 12, 2008 at 7:55pm

Assalaam alaykum. I am a Muslim Black American, currently living & working in a middle eastern country. While not a "veteran" political watcher, I have followed the last two general elections (presidential) with more interest and attention than I have followed any previous election even when I lived in the states. I won't use valuable space in this comment to discuss any particular candidate, or his/her virtues, disadvantages or other concerns. And, I tend to agree with Sr. Ayesha that Muslims should vote in a collective fashion based on a consensus of the overall potential of a candidate for the good of the American society and the world. My main concern is not who we should vote for, and I am preparing to vote absentee this year, insha Allah. My main concern is that Muslims actually REGISTER to vote so they will at least be recognized as engaged in the issues of this society. Perhaps Muslims should consider holding political caucuses in coming years - as an independent voting entity without affiliation to any party, but moreso with positions on particular issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, homelessness, Government responsibility for essential life needs such as health, housing and other matters. I agree with Imam Zaid that the spiritual and moral problems in America won't change with the existence of a Black American or woman in the White House. And Muslims will have to engage the process of addressing the society's concerns in different forums with clear positions. However, Muslims who don't at least register to vote will definitely be disregarded.

By Mahdi on February 13, 2008 at 12:02am

Assalaam alaykum, Jazakum Allah khairan for a very insightful article. A lot of good points have been made. I'm currently based in the UK but I was raised in Canada and have always kept an eye on US elections. However, I have never voted due to the blatant hypocrisy. Politicians make all sorts of promises on the campaign trail but then break every single one once in office. Four years later, after the people have been thoroughly disappointed, another one comes along and makes another set of promises, under the slogans of 'change' and 'hope' etc. The people fall for it and four years later the same thing happens again. Americans would be wise to look at the backgrounds of the presidential candidates and try to discover what interests they really serve. Is it the Council on Foreign Relations? The Trilateral Commission? The Bilderberg Group? Who actually follows the Constitution and believes in non-interventionism, a humble foreign policy, small government, no income tax, IRS or Federal Reserve, a return to the gold standard, securing the borders, a balanced budget etc. etc. I'm not an expert, but the only person I can think of, and the only person I've noticed in my lifetime, is Congressman Ron Paul. The mainstream media avoids him, which is a good sign, because he is direct threat to their interests. There are really only 5 media corporations in the US, and they are all tightly knitted to the military industrial complex. The chances of Ron Paul being nominated for the Republican candidacy, let alone the White House, are slim at best. Do your own research into him and you'll find him to be an impeccable candidate, but the elite who control your country will never allow him to be more than a congressman. If you look at the 'leading' candidates, none of them, including Obama, have made any clear intention to end the Iraq war. Obama is even prepared to invade Pakistan. McCain wants to stay in Iraq for a hundred years. Hillary says whatever she can to get elected, but ultimately she is no less a warmonger than the rest of them. An African American or female president will not bring about change, but the superficial change of an African American or female president has fooled many Americans into thinking that it will lead to real change. Why is this? Allah and His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, have made it clear that the source of all oppression in the world is rejection of faith in Him and/or idolatry. Read Surah al-Baqarah 2:254 and Luqman 31: 13. The disbelievers are the oppressors and idolatry is a tremendous oppression. Those who oppress themselves will naturally oppress others, as Khalid ibn Walid, may Allah be pleased with his, has said. One should also read ar-Ra'd 13:11. Allah will not change the states of people until they change what is in themselves. In conclusion, expecting change to come about through voting is useless. Democracy is a deeply flawed system that is highly susceptible to corruption and manipulation. As Norman Davies, in his book Europe: A History, points out, democracy has no inherent values of its own. The values are completely dependent on the nature of the electorate. If the electorate is good and just the government will be good and just. If the electorate is made up of cannibals the government will be made up of cannibals. And what if the electorate is duped, fooled and brainwashed? Yes, indeed Adolf Hitler was democratically elected in 1933. If Muslims want to see change in the world we need to do what the Companions and those after them did: preach the faith.

By canuck on February 14, 2008 at 9:50am

I think it's important to also mention that these haven't proven tag lines for any of the other candidates, either. I agree with your perspective, but disagree that we should only hold one man to this standard, when we should in fact hold every single candidate to this standard. Because truly, the issues that are being glossed over, denied, ignored, are issues that even though they pertain to a specific demographic, the champion of these issues need not be from that same demographic. The broadening of this criticism would allow for our Muslim reality that We all have a duty to one another; one that does not concern itself with colour, 'tribe', religion, and / or economic standing. The spiritual malaise you mention is indeed one that will affect (and one that has already) detrimentally American society - and so the cure must come from all of those affected. Each one of the candidates is here at fault. Thank you for this article and for all others. You remain an inspiration. Salaam, Maha

By Imam Zaid Shakir on February 15, 2008 at 8:29am

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Sister Maha, I just want to emphasize to you and a few others, I was not trying to put Obama in a box, as opposed to other candidates. The reason for choosing Obama for specific mention was the occasion of the anniversary of Dr. King's birth, the national holiday in his honor and certain parallels that could be highlighted by Obama's (thus far) overwhelmingly successful candidacy. I also wanted to stimulate discussion around some hard issues. In that regard, I cannot tell you all how impressed I am with the sincerity, honesty, and depth of your comments. They have certainly sharpened my understanding of the issues involved and deepened the level of my reflection, which I hope you will find indications of in a few changes I made to the original article. If we are honest with each other, and do not hold back our true feelings, we can have meaningful discussions that will collectively enrich our community and render us a more viable actor in the enrichment of our society at large. May God continue to bless all of you.

By canuck on February 15, 2008 at 1:23pm

Wa Alaikum As-Salaam, Brother. Two things: First, in light of the context of the article itself, I now understand why your focus was Obama. Second, a simple thank you for taking the time to read, consider and respond to our comments. It is *greatly* appreciated. Maha

By F on February 20, 2008 at 8:31am

ASA Br. Zaid, What we have to note here is the difference in the cause that MLK was leading and what Obama is seeking. MLK was a "civil rights, human rights" leader. He took up a cause for women and Blacks in America. It was for a particular group of people to obtain some equality in an unequal society. Obama is seeking to be President of the USA where he "has or suppose" to represent all people. Therefore to get the majority of the people to vote for him he cannot ruffle any feathers in the process. Therefore WE cannot expect him to be the one to take up the major problems that people suffer be they black or white. He addresses the problems which both/ALL people share. Like the war, jobs that are going overseas, lack of affordable healthcare etc. Issues which ALL people can relate too! Leave the specific but REAL problems which blacks and some whites and others face for people like Jesse Jackson or Rev Al to tackle. (not that they are the best people to lead these issues but they position themselves to do so) Their approach proved unsuccessful since they choose to focus on a narrow group of people who do not represent the MAJORITY of people to win a nomination and possibly an election. MLK and Obama cause and purpose are quite different from each other. MLK wanted to see change and justice for a particular group in a broken system. Obama wants to see change of leadership and mentality for a nation. King did not ask the people to be their leader he took it upon himself to lead. Obama is asking the people to be their leader

By Ian B on February 21, 2008 at 12:36pm

As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu, I don't agree with the support of Obama; while it is true that having an African-American man in office will be of immense symbolic value I do not see this as outweighing the true issues at hand. If somebody representing a disenfranchised minority does not appear to have significantly different stances on issues than his peers then what value does it hold in the grand scheme of things? Obama does not have a decent strategy for getting out of this mess in 'Iraq, and he is already "sending flowers" to the Israeli government at the detriment of the Palestinians in the current crisis, before he is even president. He has already stated the potential of military intervention in Pakistan. He constantly speaks of "change" but is vague on the details of what this "change" entails. While I have seen a few cite Obama

By Mohammad A. Tariq on February 22, 2008 at 5:25am

salaamualaikum, It's a surprise to me that Muslims in America aren't writing articles as such about Ron Paul. The only candidate that can truly bring back the values of true conservatism and relive the constitution is Ron Paul. The rest of the candidates are not surprisingly very similar. Obama like the rest has his connections deep in to the council on foreign relations. Obama wants to wage another war but his war will be against Pakistan. I don't think the author of this post has really done a research on issues. Obama speaks only of "change" what change? that is something none of his followers would know of. I would highly recommend brother Zaid Shakir to do a bit of research of Ron Paul and the rest of the candidates to really see the reality of American politics before hinting to the Muslims who to vote for. Some one here said don't vote for Ron Paul because he doesn

By Abdul Latif Al-Amin on February 26, 2008 at 9:36pm

as sallamu alaikum wa rahmatullah inshaa Allah this reaches all in the best of iman and health. May Allah give us all good in this life and the next, and may He forgive us all of all our wrongdoing With so much interest in the current election. We should not rely on our means but of course as we all know we should rely on Allah but take the means but rely on Allah not on our taking of the means. Staus quo is the reality but we should be content with it

By Canuck on February 29, 2008 at 2:28pm

Salaam Brother Abdul latif Al-Amin. What exactly do you mean by: "Staus quo is the reality but we should be content with it"? I don't want to make assumptions, because it appears your comment is in fact incomplete. Having said that, it places me greatly ill at ease when anyone begins with the sentiment of 'status quo is the reality'. Even though, I believe that we must *believe* most heavily in our reliance on God, this should *never* be seen as an excuse to stand back and not act. It's like the concept of naseeb. We don't sit behind closed doors and declare: "If it is my naseeb to have a university degree, then I shall receive it. While I sit here in my room. Alone, without acting." I think there is a DUTY on us to act. And that duty relies on our belief that God is on whom we ALL rely. Optimism in action; optimism in Faith, brother. I hope I have not offended. Salaam, Maha

By abdul latif al-amin on March 2, 2008 at 9:51am

as sallmau alaikum Inshaa Allah this reaches all in the best of spirts May Allah give you good in this life and the next What I'm trying to say is that we should work and work hard but rely only in Allah not in our works. Things will only change by the will and leave of Allah jazak Allah khair Abdul Latif Al-Amin

By Nat Turner Mujahid on March 6, 2008 at 5:03am

Asa my Dear and respected brother and Imam. I am not trying to upset anyone, but please answer a question for this old man.To my brother and sisters who support Obama, this is his official position on Sodomites. Please tell me from Quran and Sunnah how a Muslim can agree with this. Washington DC (CNA) -- Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama has promised to use the presidency as a "bully pulpit" for homosexual activism, according to an open letter released on his campaign website. In the February 28 letter posted under the "LGBT" section of the "People" heading, Senator Obama said he would press for the passage of hate crime laws and a "fully inclusive" Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. "As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws," Obama said. Obama said he favored civil unions over same-sex marriage laws, but said, "I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples..." He pledged to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" practice that excludes open homosexuals from military service. Obama said winning broad support for his positions was important, saying he would bring his LGBT activism to "skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones." "I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary," he said. He said he will convince you not me.

By Carey C on March 7, 2008 at 7:34am

Asalaamu Alaikum, So, don't vote for him brother, if you are that offended by his position on point A or Point B. Vote for John McCain because he's the one who dislikes gay people. He will bomb Muslim countries into the stone age. take yourself out of the political process. Obama himself is not gay. If you want everyone to stop being Islamophobic, stop being Homophobic. Someone you know is gay right now. They depend on Allah's Rahmah. I suppose that you can be glad you aren't gay, then.

By Imam Zaid Shakir on March 12, 2008 at 2:37pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Brother Muhammad A. Tariq, I am not trying to hint as to who Muslims should vote for. For the record, I far prefer the policies of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich to those of Obama. For that matter I prefer the politics of Cynthia McKinney to all of the above. Saying that in the American political system as it is currently configured, none of those individuals have a chance to win the presidency, and it is not because of anything I have said or done. Therefore, what are we left with and what is the best we can hope for as Muslims in terms of who can best protect or possibly advance our position in this society? Those are the issues before us. Ideally, I would support the creation of a third party that could highlight the essential bankruptcy of the existing system. Still, we have to play the hand we are dealt. Obama's promise is not his politics, they are establishment to the core. It is what he represents in terms of the history of race in this country and the new people he is bringing into the system. Oftentimes a person may be a symbol of something far larger than himself or herself and he or she is merely a means that Allah is using to effect a change far larger than the person himself or herself. Will this be the case with Obama. That remains to be seen.

By Carree on October 5, 2008 at 2:10pm

We must remember that Reverend/Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was first a Pastor before he became a Civil Rights Leader. So, he would therefore have to speak what he felt was wrong, ie. the Viet Nam War. Barack Obama, as a Christian, should speak against the Iraqi/Afghanistan war we are now embroiled in. When Leadership has to sugar coat where they are leading, is it really Leadership? One thing I must make a point of is that I think many nations/people have forgotten or failed to look back to see where America was at the time of Rev. King. America was not tolerant of ANYONE who was not White. That included not only African Americans, but Arabs, Jews, Mexicans and such. We all have benefited from Rev. King's sacrifice, vision and of course of the Civil Rights Leaders of the era. Change was the result for all of us. believe it or not, all you have to do is study the era in discussion and see the doors of racial diversity and tolerance opened up for all of us. Now, we are faced with Barack Obama. My observation is this: I believe that God (through Rev./Dr. King) ushered in a new era for mankind. What will God usher in through Barack Obama? I truly believe that something more is going on here than what anyone has taken the time to give thought to. (In regards to this certain observation). What do you all think? Thank you for your comments and suggestions in this regard.

By RaDine Amen-ra on February 10, 2009 at 3:00pm

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