New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Yes We Can!

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2008-11-05

The American people have spoken in a resounding voice, “YES WE CAN!” and with that refrain echoing into the night history was made as Senator Barack Hussein Obama was elected to serve as the next president of the United States. Senator Obama’s election as the first African American president illustrates that the politics of hope can trump the politics of fear, that every vote can and does count, that the youth of this nation are not a group of apathetic hedonists, and that the promise of peace is stronger than the prospect of war.

Americans turned out in record numbers to sweep the Republicans out of office and at the end of the day more votes had been cast for Senator Obama than for any other presidential candidate in the history of this country. Senator Obama’s resounding victory will not change America overnight. African American and Latino youth will continue to be carted off to jails and prisons in numbers tremendously disproportionate to their percentage in the overall population, people whose homes are on the verge of foreclosure will find little immediate relief from the president-elect and his yet to be assembled team, and the war profiteers will continue to make money hand over fist as the misadventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan drag on.

However, the coalition of forces that has come together to guarantee Senator Obama’s victory represents a powerful realignment in American politics; sincere whites who were feed up with the corruption, venality, and mendacity of the cabal in Washington, young people of all ages and races (the hip hop generation), a re-energized African American electorate, progressive Latinos, particularly in Florida and the Southwest of the country, and Muslims, yes Muslims, many of whom worked just as doggedly as Senator Obama’s other supporters, despite the stigmatizing of their faith and themselves in many instances.

It is the promise that this new coalition represents as much as the inspiring leadership of Senator Obama that in the long run will translate the prospect of change that drove so many during the long electoral campaign into the reality of change. The heavy lifting that will be required to make the sacrifices necessary to usher in a new day in American society will be undertaken, on the ground, by members of this coalition. The continued mobilization of the members of the communities that this coalition represents will be critical to the implementation of Senator Obama’s agenda. At the end of the day, for those who would take note, Senator Obama’s election demonstrates once again the truth of the old adage, “All politics are local.”

Senator Obama’s election also opens a new door for Muslims in America. Although his campaign wisely distanced itself from any overt public identification with Muslims, considering the reality of the negative public perception of Islam and Muslims in some quarters, it is quite clear that Senator Obama valued the support he received from the Muslim community. He appointed a liaison to the Muslim community, high ranking members of his team met with Muslim delegations, and his campaign was supportive of Muslim grassroots efforts such as “Muslims for Obama.”

The fact that Senator Obama was able to win such a resounding victory, despite the fact that his middle name is Hussein, and despite the fact that there was a concerted and well-funded effort undertaken via both the internet, and the “Obsession” propaganda campaign to smear him as a Muslim, indicates that the majority of the American people are prepared to judge people on their merits and to look beyond the scare-tactics that proved so fruitful for the Republicans throughout the post-9/11 era.

The nature of Senator Obama’s victory opens up a tremendous door of opportunity for Muslims. Now is the time for us to unify our ranks and to take advantage of the spirit of change that has dominated this electoral season to work for meaningful change in the policies of this country towards both the Muslim world and the developing world in general. If we can organize our community, harness the creative power and intellect of our youth, end the historical tendency of our community to shy away from public service, and create a viable agenda that moves away from the zero-sum, seemingly escapist political ranting that so many of us have inclined towards in the past, then perhaps we will begin as American Muslims to make our own history, in a constructive way, as opposed to sitting passively on the sidelines as others make their history and create painful facts that are so detrimental to our interests and the lives of our coreligionists and other oppressed people both here and abroad. 


By Dawud Israel on November 5, 2008 at 7:16am

Bismillah As salaam aleikum Dear beloved Imam, Yes you are right. I pray to see a photograph of change with you standing next to President Obama, out of love and unity and not fear. I pray that we will see better days and our children will inherit a religion and a future brighter than we can ever imagine. May Allah bless this day now and forever, and may the joy of Nov 5th outweigh the fear of Sept 11th. Jazaka Allahu khayran!

By genieyclo on November 5, 2008 at 1:37pm

Barack MuBarack!

By Muhammad Abdul-Haqq on November 5, 2008 at 7:21pm

I completely agree with you Imam, thank you for these thoughtful words and your invitation to sincere, focused, and consistent civic service for the pleasure of God. Obama's victory is a watershed moment in the history of the United States. Millions of "non-blacks" showed their confidence in the vision and leadership of a "Black" man through their volunteerism, donations, art, and votes. Such selfless sacrifice by so many people of diverse backgrounds under the leadership of a son of Africa AND America has not been witnessed since perhaps the civil rights era. Obama's victory is a wake up call for Muslims to truly embrace the sublime example of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings rest upon him and his family) in our relations with our fellow citizens. Doing so will enable us to soar above small and narrow paradigms, parochialism, and neglect of our civic responsibilities. Doing so will enable Muslims to participate in and illuminate the dialogue on the most critical issues of our age and work actively towards establishing programs and institutions that benefit all people. Programs and institutions which resonate with the beauty, compassion, and excellence of Islam.

By Jibran Khan on November 5, 2008 at 7:44pm

As'Salaamu Alaykum Imam Zaid I think that you have summarised this all very well. Today makes me think of this statement by our dear brother El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz: "I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they'll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action." That is, more or less, what has happened. I remember reading in President-elect Obama's autobiography that it was Brother Malcolm's writings that got him going in the direction that he eventually went in. It is indeed a great moment. While I fear that this victory will cause some to believe that all issues of race have been resolved, the lasting result of this election is that any child can aspire to any office in the land. That is indeed a blessing.

By abumagan on November 5, 2008 at 11:07pm

Bismillah. Allahu Akbar. I'm a immigrant from Africa. A United States Citizen. My two children are Americans born in this country. I never thought the day will come for me to say "I'm proud to be American", but that day arrived with President elect Obama's victory last night. May Allah Most High make the Muslims triumphant and guide President Barack to the straight path in all his affairs. Aamin.

By AsimG on November 6, 2008 at 9:24am

Asalaamu Alaykum shaykh, While I appreciate the historic event and hope for change in America, we have to be a little realistic. He is not for Muslims and he will continue policies of killing Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and maybe even Iran. I voted and supported him as a lesser evil and I pray he ends in the war in Iraq. But the Muslim enthusiam and undaunting support given to Bush in 2000 is not forgotten. I will not make the same mistake again. May Allah protect this ummah

By Hamza on November 6, 2008 at 3:26pm

Asalamu Alaikum Imam Zaid, i hope you are well With the greatest of respect to you, I can not fully understand why you have chosen the position you have taken on Barak Obama. It is quite clear, I believe, that his foreign policy objectives negates any justified support for this man. As Muslims we are supposed to be concerned with the welfare of the Ummah but he has consistently stated his position on Israel at the expense of the Muslims. He said Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel which is contrary to international law and more importantly the status and wellbeing of the Muslims. He undoubtedly considers Israel

By Ibrahim on November 6, 2008 at 8:16pm

Yes we CAN! Alhumdulillah!

By Kamilah Sayyidi on November 7, 2008 at 2:37am

Assalaamu Alaikum, I agree whole-heartedly with this blog, as well as the Obama-MLK blog. I think it shows great insight by Imam Zaid and a call for unity is always needed. However, I am concerned that for some Muslims they may misread Imam Zaid's remarks as an allegiance to the new president-elect. I must admit I was caught up in the emotional run of Obama while he was trying to obtain the democratic ticket. His opponent ran her campaign in a way that was easily hated. I also admit to listening to the "Yes, We Can" song by Will I Am and feeling such a great affirmation for a man who resembled El Hajj Malik or Malcom X. Then somewhere along the way I became more critical of Obama. I think Bush was such a wolf and people were more than ready to get him and his administration out of the white house. However, some wolves come in sheep clothing. I believe we as Muslims should be very concerned of the president-elect, Senator Obama's liberalism. From his acceptance speech to his first choice, Rahm Emanuel- a huge supporter of the zionist cause, we should always take a moderate stand and keep our HOPE with ALLAH.

By Zarlasht on November 8, 2008 at 12:40am

"Rosa Parks sat, so that Martin Luther King Jr. can walk, so that Barack Hussein Obama could run, so that you and I can fly." --Kristin Jensen Sullivan Professor of Environmental Studies DeAnza College, Cupertino, CA

By Abdullah Ibn Adam on November 8, 2008 at 2:05am

I'm a bit confused about this article. As I read it couple times I couldn't figure out the tone that Zaid Shakir is conveying. But I'm for one is not happy at all that Obama is won and here is why. One one hand I'm happy to see a black person is elected which shows that America is becoming more diverse. But don't be fooled by Obama. He is just as bad as neocons. I'm not for McCain either because both parties are bought and paid for. People have to wake up and don't believe the hype about Obama and so called "change". What about Obama supporting wall street bail out? What about the fact that most of his money for campaign came from corporate world? I mean come on, don't you know that this guy was groomed for this position since 2004 by corporate elite? He voted for expanding of military budget by military industrial complex, didn't he? He swore a year ago that he will bring troops back? Now he is hinting about that we need to expand war from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Since his beginning of politics he has gone along with corporate power. And lastly I'm leaving you with couple of links to educate yourself on Obama: - Obama outlines policy of endless war. - Senate Passes FISA Bill with Immunity for Telecoms. - Obama Asks Americans To Support Bailout. - Conyers' Report Newly Updated: "Constitution in Crisis". (Obama refused to acknowledge the documented crimes of Bush administration in this report)

By Sana on November 8, 2008 at 5:08pm

Assalamu 'alaykum, Jazakhallah for the article,I was wondering what your thoughts were on Barack Obama appointing Rahm Emanuel who is a strong Israel partisan,as House chief of staff?Jazakhallah. Wslaam

By Dawud on November 9, 2008 at 5:50am

As-Salaamu Alaykum I agree with your comments Imam Zaid. I hope Barack Obama's election will result in some healing of this nation and the world. Just the image of a Black Man as President of the United States has inspired millions in this country and probably millions around the world. I know that anyone can see the significance of this historic event but as a Black Man, to see another Black Man reach the highest rank in this land is a feeling that I cannot describe and that only a Black Man can truly understand. So many of us, including myself, were overcome with emotion at the announcement of his victory. This is something that most of us never believed would ever happen. I hope this election creates a paradigm shift in the image of the Black Man in America. I do not believe that Barack Obama is an anomaly but we usually do not get the image of the Black Man that is intelligent, educated, family-oriented, well-spoken, carries himself with dignity, has integrity and good character. Unfortuantely we have images of being thugs, gangsters, players, pimps, hustlers, etc. Some of these images we have portrayed ourselves and even make money from it. I hope that we, Black Men, are not just pleased with him being President but also take from his example. I am even more hopeful that the Deen we are on will have even more impact in the years to come, if we practice it correctly. President-elect Obama has proven that if you exhibit knowledge and excellent character good people will love you and follow you. People are looking for someone with Prophetic qualities to lead and guide them. We as Muslims have the blueprint for success. Barack Obama, at least publically, has exhibited these types of qualities: Knowledge, Dignity, Integrity, Family, Humility, etc. I was particularly impressed with his acceptance speech where some commentators thought he was in a somber mood but what I saw was humility in victory. Someone that understood the burden of leadership and was humbled by people that believed in him. It reminds me of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when he came into Makkah in victory with his head down out of humility. Barack Obama is one of the few politicians I've seen that seems sincere. I hope this is the case. And finally, I hope that this is a sign of success for those who believe and indeed for all of humanity. Dawud Pittsburgh, PA

By Mustafa Shanteaux on November 9, 2008 at 6:31pm

Asalaamu Alaikum; "Hopefully, Obama is Not a Used Car Dealer" Imam Zaid Shakir (June 2008) With the immediate appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff, and a return trip to AIPAC within 12 hours of his election he is looking like a full fledged Dajjalic Zionist Crusader. Should History repeat itself, President Obama's commitment to the eradication of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan & Pakistan could spell the disentegration of the United States of America as we know it. The Soviet Union was defeated by the Mujahideen in Afghanistan within the course of 10 years, after which they lost control of their Eastern Bloc Nations and the Powder Keg of Bosnia exploded. Should America endure the same fate it will inevitably lose control of it's "Eastern Bloc Nations" (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE) and the Powder Keg in the Arabian Peninsula will likewise explode. Set your sights on Jerusalem and mark your calendar for December 25th 2011. It is precisley 911 years since the coronation of King Baldwin, the 1st King of Jerusalem, and could be Prime Time for the appearance of The Last King of Jerusalem, Masih ad-Dajjall.

By samy on November 10, 2008 at 7:17am

Yes we can.

By careysalaam on November 11, 2008 at 7:53am

I volunteered for BO's campaign in Dearborn, MI as well as in Iowa. Of course I am glad that he won, because of his pragmatic approach to issues, especially domestic issues. But I fear that the dialoge that he promised to the muslim community (an address during the first 90 days, I believe) might get swept under the rug, due to the overwhelming economic crisis. I would like to see a panel done with Zaid Shakir, Siraj Wahaj, Hamza Yusuf and Barack Obama clarifying his positions on Muslims and handling religious relations in the wake of these wars.

By Imam Zaid Shakir on November 12, 2008 at 1:45pm


By Hamza on November 15, 2008 at 2:52am

asalamu alaikum Imam Zaid, i hope you are well. May Allah (swt) continue to bless you Thank you for taking time out to reply. I know you are really busy. You wrote a very detailed reply mashallah to which I am not able to fully respond to. What I will say, however, is the pessimism you found in my original comment is, in my opinion, not pessimism, it is rather a position of clarity based upon history and the removal of his rhetoric. The USA has, since 1945; been directly responsible for the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless (10’s of millions) innocent men, women and children, let us not forget the 1 million plus Muslims in the past 5 years. The lies told to the world about these events were deep and shows us, if we care to look, that the hadith of our beloved Nabi (saw) is true where he is reported to have said: "The time of the Dajjal will be years of confusion. People will believe a liar, and disbelieve one who tells the truth. People will distrust one who is trustworthy, and trust one who is treacherous; and the ruwaybidha will have a say." Someone asked: "Who are they?" He said: "Those who rebel against Allah and will have a say in general affairs." I do not feel this behaviour will change because of the promises of a new liberal black man seeking office, despite what the illusion of change may appear to be. He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more Muslims. I am not going to be fooled into buying into his idea of “Change” when that just means a change of location for more Muslim deaths. We should remember that although Obama distanced himself from Bush during his campaign, Obama voted to give Bush what he wanted for the wars. I also cannot and will not separate his foreign policy positions from his domestic ones because for me they are related. However, I hope you are proved right, and that I am proved wrong. Just because the face has changed it doesn’t mean the things we care about will With love Hamza

By Abdul-Jaleel on November 21, 2008 at 7:00am

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Voting: Is it Halal or Haram? V oting: One of the dirtiest tricks played on the Muslims yet. Just ask african-americans. Now let us think, seriously, how many of us really think that our votes really count or make a difference? Do you think that you can be heard by a vote? Some organizations sadly think that by voting for these corrupt politicians for things like a street sign, a traffic light, the right to wear a beard or a hijab that they

By Basim Salim on November 30, 2008 at 9:05am

Assalamu Alaykum Imam Zaid, MashAllah a great article and it is definitely a new moment in history. I cannot help but agree more on the fact that injustice is still happening at the moment and there are still people being locked up in jail. My opinions on President Obama are quite neutral and I cannot say whether he will be a good president or not to the US. I can say is this, he ran a great campaign. As a marketing undergraduate, I could not help notice the great tactics used by Obama to get the nation on his side. From consistency to inspiring messages that were catered to specific audiences wherever he went, you don't find a better marketer than Obama. But it poses a different question for me, like any marketing campaign that is launched and as people rush to the stores to buy the latest gadget. The truth of the product is revealed in a few days, months or even years depending on the product. Similarly, I agree, right now we have to give Obama the benefit of the doubt that he is what he said about what he will do and change. A new black president that came out of nowhere and took the United States by storm, sounds like an apple ipod which came and took the stores by storm. His success and popularity will rest on his ability to deliver time after time, to innovate and come up with strategies to solve the problems of the nations. If he cannot, then like any normal consumer, they will be out once again looking for that inspiring product that will solve all their problems. I cannot help but reflect on this that part of consumer psychology is to have his or her needs fulfilled by purchasing and relying in the object in itself. Rather we know just by our belief that even the quenching of thirst with water is in Allah's Will and Power. If Allah Wills, Barak Obama will quench the thirst of millions of Americans hoping to having their dreams and problems solved. May Allah guide us all to the straight path and give this Ummah strength and unity. With Love and Respect, Basim

By Shahid Hussain on January 27, 2009 at 11:22am

Salaam, I disagree with you and I cannot understand WHY Muslims are supporting OBAMA. Even our leaders and Imams have jumped on the Obama bandwagon to our dismay and shock! Allah does say that the end of times will be when your leaders will be the ones who misguide and mislead you. I believe that Muslims have had to compromise their beliefs in voting for Obama. I remember my father, grand parents and elders happily telling the children about the Glory and Light of Islam putting an end to Jahaliya practices of pre-Islamic Arabia. They used to recount how Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) brought an end to the unjust acts of burying female babies alive. Infanticide and abortion are one and the same. So it is confusing to have the images of our ancestors telling us that the Glory of Islam saved the innocent babies of Arabia and then seeing Muslims and our respected Muslim leaders voting for a man who has brought our society to commit those pre-Islamic Jahalia. Let us not forget that among the first acts of Obama was to reversed the abortion funding bill. What do our leaders have to say about that? If we are upset about Bush killing Muslims, Muslims should be just as upset about the killing of babies - abortions, aka infanticide, something detested by our beloved Prophet (PBUH). The Holy Qu'ran also gives examples of socities destroyed by His wrath for failing to follow what he has ordained and not heeding his signs and warnings. God asks us to travel the world and see what are the consequences of negleting his warnings. Qu'ran talks about societies destroyed for their lewdness and homosexuality. Even a prophet's wife was destroyed by the wrath of God because she had a soft spot for homosexuality, even though she did not practice it herself. So today, Muslims are happy in showing their Obama stickers and their Obama T-shirts knowing very well that the Democratic party is promoting homosexual behavior and violating the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, as ordained by God, by allowing homosexuals to marry. What a sin have we voted into the office. Do we not take guidance from the Qu'ran and read about what God did to those engaged in homosexual behavior? We have Muslim Imams singing praises of Obama - A man who has brought our society to practicing acts we once were so proud of having put an end to, as is evident in his policies when he took office. And we have brough a party into an office that is helping to decay the moral fabric of our society, acts which have been the cause of receiving God's wrath. These are the end of times. I do not buy the argument of "Bush's last 8 years". I do not condone what Bush did at all, however, Muslims have been dying for longer than 8 years. Where is the outrage about Muslims killing Muslims? Turks killing Kurds and vice versa, Pakistanis killing Bengalis, Shi'as and Sunnis killing each other, Sadam killing Muslims, suicide bombers killing other Muslims? Our leadership must be just as vocal when a suicide bomber kills a Muslim in pakistan as when a drone missile strike kills a Muslim in Pakistan; they must be just as vocal about a Fatah member killed by Hamas as they are when an Israeli bullet kills a Palestinian. Societies get strong and weak over time. But once the moral fabric of society starts to decay, it is very hard to reverse it! Obama will accelerate the decay of our morals - homosexuality will be allowed to prosper and infanticide will be practiced openly. I hope Muslims, especially our Imams, wake up.

By Shahid Hussain on February 2, 2009 at 9:12am

my previous comment was never published, perhaps because it was rather long, I hope. I'm making it very short and to the point. Anyone who is for abortion can never be a president for Muslims. Our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) put an end to infanticide and today we are happy that we voted for a man who is for infanticide. Any president who wants to take the obstacles away from homosexuality can never be a president for mulims. He is getting the society ready for the wrath of Allah and we muslims rejoice in his victory. Astagfir`allah.

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