A letter to President Bush
Before a real clash of civilisations becomes reality, Mohamed Hakki*
pleads for reason -- and some comprehensive rethinking -- in Washington
Dear President Bush,
It is with my deepest regret that I write this letter to you. People throughout the Middle East have always held every president of the United States in the highest regard, but I have been driven to write this letter after hearing your thoughtless, almost racist, description of our hallowed religion as "Islamo-fascism".
When you first used this expression sometime ago, we thought it was just a slip of the tongue, a stumble. Your more mature advisors would surely soon correct you. When General Boykin used this expression, we thought he would surely be fired. And when other advisors, like Daniel Pipes, used it we ignored it as the unfortunate bigotry of misguided Likudniks, though they seemed to fill the corridors of your administration. It was heartening that you always talked about Islam with respect, considering it part of our mutual heritage of heavenly faiths sent by our one God -- the God in which we all believe, be we Christians, Muslims or Jews. Even after your actions -- all of your actions -- betrayed admiration for, alliance with, and complete support of Israel, even after the whole world watched the total destruction of Lebanon, we thought that these actions were simply the result of a broken moral compass. But when you equate Islam with fascism, you crossed all acceptable lines of behaviour.
Mr President, throughout the last 60 years no American president has ever used his pulpit to so publicly denigrate any human faith, and you, Mr President were held in high esteem because of your previous, positive statements about Islam. You even described it as a religion of peace, which it is.
Fascism, Mr President, as defined by Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language is "a system of government characterised by rigid one party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralised governmental control, belligerent nationalism, racism and militarism, etc." Benito Mussolini was one founder of modern fascism, but no one ever accused him of being a "Christo-fascist".
The majority of your people do not agree with your policies or opinions or actions, whether in Iraq or elsewhere. But this, Mr President, is not our fight. This is your problem. This is your legacy, whatever you want to leave behind. But insulting 1.2 billion Muslims is not becoming of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, the one that your predecessor described as the shining city on the hill. Most of us believed that description.
We thought that if you heard one of your unenlightened advisors using such language you would be a role model, rising above to stop them in their tracks. America is bigger than that. You can embrace the Israelis as much as you want. You can even support their destruction of entire towns and massacres of thousands of civilians. All of this could go under policy failures, or a broken moral compass, but attacking one of God's holiest religions is not a policy failure -- it is much worse than that. And here, Mr President, we part ways. I hope you realise the gravity of the wedge you are creating between the US and those billion Muslims in the world.
As for your call for democracy in the Middle East, the German magazine Der Speigel in an interview with your predecessor, Jimmy Carter, said, "It comes as no surprise that that had been discredited. The former president said, 'My concerns have gotten even worse now with the United States supporting and encouraging Israel in its unjustified attack on Lebanon. Israel has no moral justification for its massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon'."Mr President, the majority of Arab-Americans, including myself, were hoping that you would pursue your father's even-handed policies in the Middle East. But when former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil quoted you in your first National Security Council meeting as saying, "We are going to tilt US policy to Israel and we are going to be consistent," we could not believe him. Unfortunately you have tilted it completely and systematically towards Israel.
Mr President, Israel's fight with the Arabs is not your fight. Mature advisors would tell you that Israel is not America. Israel is your delinquent ally. You will spend the rest of your administration trying to clean up Israel's bloody mess. This does not have to be your fate or your destiny or your cross to bear, like a delinquent son. You don't have to pay for their ugly wars. The Arabs collectively declared that they want to live in peace with Israel. The peace proposal adopted by the Arab League in Beirut in 2002 is unequivocal. Please read it, Mr President.
When I was in Rochester, Minnesota, 6 August, I read in The Star Tribune that in 2002 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said to you, "I think we never had such a relationship with any president of the United States." Most Arabs can say the same thing, Mr President, but with exactly the opposite meaning. The irony is that it does not have to be this way. There is no other part of the world where countries have been as consistently friendly and helpful to America as those in the Arab world, despite the long history of injustice, insults and total neglect of their hopes and aspirations. Believe me, Mr President, every Arab I know believes that it is an act of magnanimity that they accept Israel to live among them, but only if Israel accepts to live among them peacefully, forgoing expansionism, creeping annexation and continued settlement enlargement.
Mr Bush, the ball is in your court, but you have to fear God, the one God that we all believe in -- Christians, Muslims and Jews.
* The writer is a political analyst resident in Washington.