Mehdi Hasan's Misguided Thanks To Obama For Mosque Speech

10/02/2016 8:20 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
President Barack Obama greets children from Al-Rahmah school and other guests during his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


I often agree with the opinions of noted journalist Mehdi Hasan, but I was left shaking my head in disbelief when I read his Al Jazeera article, titled "Thank you Obama for your mosque speech." The speech in question had taken place in a Baltimore mosque, and had an effusive Obama lauding Muslims for their contribution in building America. "Thank you for serving your community. Thank you for lifting up the lives of your neighbors, and for helping keep us strong and united as one American family. We are grateful for that," said the US President to applause.

Isn't it moving? It moves you in the way a Bryan Adams song moves you... "Please forgive me, I know not what I do...."

Let me remind him that the person he is so grateful to was directly or indirectly responsible for the killings of thousands of Muslims.

Sorry, the syrupy sentimentality just doesn't do it for me.

Now, I'm not criticising Mr Hasan's personal choice here, which he made amply clear in his disclaimer:

"[P]utting aside some of my own criticisms of Obama's domestic and foreign policies for a moment, let me say this, on behalf of my Muslim-American daughters and my headscarf-wearing Muslim-American wife, who has been verbally abused on the streets of this nation's capital: thank you, Mr President."

However, let me remind him (because he already knows this) that the person he is so grateful to was directly or indirectly responsible for the killings of thousands of Muslims in West Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Here are some facts which will remind Mehdi Hasan of what Barack Obama was responsible for:

Muslim population in countries bombed under Obama

  • Afghanistan 99.8%
  • Iraq 99%
  • Pakistan 96.4%
  • Somalia 98.6%
  • Yemen 99%
  • Libya 96.6%
  • Syria 92.8%

Obama drones have killed more Muslims than the Spanish inquisition did. A report by Investigative Bureau of United States in 2015 states:

  • Total Obama strikes: 362
  • Total US strikes since 2004: 413
  • Total reported killed: 2,438-3,942
  • Civilians reported killed: 416-959
  • Children reported killed: 168-204
  • Total reported injured: 1,142

*The figures have been compiled as part of the Bureau's monthly report into covert US drone attacks, which are run in two separate missions-- one by the CIA and one for the Pentagon by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

The list above does not include combat on the ground and through the air force in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. Let's also not forget how forgiving Obama has been of Israel's war crimes and violations of human rights in Palestine.

If Modi ever apologises for the Gujarat riots or speaks of the integrity of Indian Muslims, I am not going to stand up and THANK him!

I am not saying that I believe Obama is responsible for everything, since policies are not made by one person. However, I don't appreciate the disingenuousness of his rhetoric, which comes after seven and a half years in office. It may sound pleasing to some ears because something is better than nothing in a country where Islamophobia has grown since 9/11 and where a candidate like Donald Trump gets applause for spewing hatred against Muslims.

How much can this sort of lip service really help? I suppose that his speech might - and I repeat might be useful for US Muslims. They could, perhaps, quote it as an example if they fear another Islamophobe attack or are harassed at an airport by Homeland security. (Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan needs to memorise this speech by heart.) But I can't see myself saying this if I were ever to be hassled in the US, "Hey remember what Obama said in a xyz mosque in Baltimore?"

While I respect Mehdi Hasan's right to express his personal opinion, I'd like to remind him that most Muslims would not like to thank Obama. I certainly wouldn't. If Narendra Modi ever apologises for the Gujarat riots or speaks of the integrity of the Muslim community, as an Indian Muslim I am not going to stand up and THANK him!

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