Friday, December 26, 2008


Because President Barack Obama has minimized or, some might say, disavowed his Islamic heritage, he is not able to authentically utilize one of the most powerful tool required in the coming months and years.

Readers of The Korner will recall our previous discussion of both "mercy" and "beneficence" in the Islamic tradition. We noted that America was lucky to have an increasing number of Islamic ears in the world -- ears which would recognize a sincere call for mercy. What we failed to explicitly note but which was hopefully clear from the context, was that the capacity of a nation, just like an individual, to seek mercy, is directly proportional to that nation's or person's sincerity of purpose. Is America prepared to seek mercy from the Islamic world. Judging from recent events along the Somali coast, it does not appear so.

This degree of sincerity in the seeking of mercy establishes a high enough barrier to separate large numbers of the general American public. For one thing, the very concept of "mercy" is, at base, a theological idea which recognizes a divine creator. There are sizable numbers of Americans who would be excluded on this basis alongportions of America which reject such an idea. Such people have very little cognitive complexity necessary for a complete understanding of a concept like "mercy".

Mercy is also a common word in the Koran, reflecting its high importance of the word in Islamic theology. Barack clearly understands this, although he may not fully appreciate its relevance in the turbulent world of American Foreign policy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The first order of business facing President Barack Obama is to request the written resignation of all those working for him. While this may be customary in most cases, it is particularly urgent in the case of Obama because he has cast a wide net of appointments - including people who have expressed political, philosophical, and religious differences with him on important social and political issues.

Without the authority to accept these (admittedly forced) resignations Barack runs the risk of permitting open wounds to fester and a recurrence of lingering diseases, long thought dormant in the American body politic, to raise their ugly heads once again.

From Barack's point of view, he must have this power if he is to be held responsible for the actions of so many other people acting and/or speaking on his behalf. He needs this insurance policy not only to protect himself from misguided sycophants, but also from mischief-makers -- foreign and domestic - who seek to insure that he is a one-term President.

The problem is two-fold: (1) Will Barack seek this power of forced early resignation and (2) Will the American public (sometimes expressed through the corporate media) grant him this power unconditionally?

It is possible for Barack "to have his cake and eat it too", since he ran his campaign on a promise of "change" and, presumably, such a promise would excuse diversion from past customs concerning this issue of "letters of resignation." In other words, whichever way he acts, Barack could justify as continuing (good) traditions or as terminating (bad) traditions.

This is what vexes some of Obama's political opponents and it is not clear how they will respond to the current state of affairs. But they (his opponents) will soon reveal themselves after the (traditional) "honeymoon period" is over for the current President-elect.

The American media will have a lot to say about the interpretation of all of this, but so too will the internet and the international media -- perhaps for the first time in American history. Are Americans ready for this less-than-courtside-seat in their own stadium starring their own home team?

Such a state of affairs - adhering to rules of international law and expectations --constitutes "the end of the world" for many erstwhile powerful Americans. Not only have such Americans grown to expect courtside seats, they are surprised when they are not appointed as referees and time-keepers.

American resistance to majority world rule is rooted in two realities: (1) a numerical disadvantage which gives America less than 15% of the world's population - far from sufficient to champion any kind of "majority rule" ethos and (2) a spiritual disadvantage as a result of ill-conceived foreign wars in Palestine, Vietnam, Korea, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. This spiritual defect prevents America from having the moral standing necessary to pass judgment on the behavior of other nations. History has shown an eagerness in American foreign policy to continue an empire mentality, particularly with regard to Africa.

There is not much Barack can do about the first disadvantage -- although he would be well-advised to put an immediate halt to genocide-disguised-as-AIDS health projects operating in Africa. While there may be a degree of unanimity concerning the evil of genocide, its definition remains a source of discomfort as long as the American Indian and other representative groups do not have a fair hearing. In any case, there remain legitimate international differences on the estent to which American foreign has infiltrated the world health organization and other health-related institutions.

This issue spills over to affect the second major disadvantage Barack inherits: the fact that America's word can no longer be taken at face value. Barack's background in terms of race, ethnicity and religion may place him in a much better position than any other conceivable candidate for "making the America case" in internationally controversial areas, but Barack is facing no slam dunk. The Sudan (not Dafur) issue may be an acid test of Obama's intelligence, courage, and trustworthiness.

Whatever case, the fact remains that Barack is inheriting an America which will no longer be given Carte Blanche to run the affairs of other countries. This, for some, represents a chance for good to prevail over evil.

For that, many of us are indeed grateful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

THE ADVENT OF OBAMA -11/23/08 (revised 5/9/09)

Make no mistake. Have no doubt. Things will never be the same. Change has come and most of the civilized world is rejoicing.

The "civilized world" does not, however, include all of America. There still exists a number of communities in the United States which, although their inhabitants possess electricity, computers, automobiles and other material things , they are not themselves "civilized". While such people might argue to the contrary, the possession of things is a poor barometer of a person's or nation"s intrinsic worth or value, particularly from a religious perspective.

But therein lies the rub: there are many people who consider themselves "civilized" but deny the existence of a a religious perspective, especially one which incorporates the judgement of human behavior.

From a religious point of view, of course, to be "civilized" means to behave in such a manner toward others as one would like others to behave towards oneself. This is a Biblical injunction (sometimes referred to as "the Golden Rule") shared by most world religions, including Islam.

But the problem is that there are segments of America which desire to do things to others that they would not like done to themselves; e.g., torture. Such people can be described as living an uncivilized life ; that in and of itself is not a major concern to the religious community, however. It is the fact that proponents of this idea seek to silence the voices of those opposed to it which causes the problem. Most of these proponents are, and have been, opponents of people who preach and/or practice Islam in America.

Such people may in fact surround Obama but they are not cheering his election and they fear the consequences of the change that he has already brought about. Their fear is somewhat justified, for they will no longer be "first in line" to receive the material benefits to which they have become accustomed. These people lost more than just an election; they lost part of their civilization. In Biblical terms, it is,or has been, "the end of the world" for them.

Thus, one of the problems Obama faces is that of distinguishing between the civilized and the uncivilized nature of those who surround him and who wish to influence his decision-making. This is not an easy task for Barack Obama, or for anyone else placed in a position where their decisions affect the welfare of many other people.

Part of the difficulty is derived from the deceptive nature of the physical cues that most Americans use to make judgments about themselves and others. Thus, an popular index of "civilization" is an ability to read and write. Such an ability, commonly referred to as "literacy," is considered by many Americans a sine qua non for being "civilized".

Many Americans may thus live in the physical boundaries of the United States of America, but they are often less civilized than many illiterate farmers living throughout the world. This belief in the superiority of one's own civilization is reflective of an ideology which uses technology markers as indicators. Examples of such markers include running water, electricity, automobiles, and computers.

A sub-text of such thinking is the conceptual correlation between the presence of poor people and the absence of literacy and other markers of advanced technology. This subtext then interacts with racial classifications which are stamped at every registered birth or hospital admission ins America.

The advent of Barack Obama challenges such thinking because he recognizes that the relationship between technology and civilization is not linear, and that civilization has more to do with how people treat each other than it does with how high one's IQ or FICO scores are or whether their residences are equipped with flush toilets and electricity.

Barack is uniquely qualified to dance the multi layered waltz that history is now playing before world audiences.

Unfortunately, he may have been required to downplay the influence of his father's Islamic faith in order to get elected; but he has shown no signs of running away from the basic Islamic principle of justice. So long as he remembers the poor and the orphans, Obama will win the hearts and minds of the billions of Muslims throughout the world and, by so doing, usher in the kind of New World Order which will stun the political mischief makers both in and outside of America.