Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

"Our Stories are Singular, but Our Destiny is Shared" - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

The difference between President Bush and President Obama is that President Bush used to talk to those who are in front of him in the room and tries to formulate his policies in a way that satisfies them and their money-making schemes. Whereas President Obama reached out to peoples beyond oceans, even at the height of his victory, and to people in forgotten places, to those huddled around radios by saying “our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared” and he distinguished between those who are trying to tear this world down “we will defeat you” and those who seek peace and security “we will support you”. This is a great first glimpse of a new president of the United States of America, but there’s no doubt that the challenges facing him are too many.

There is no doubt that the election of a President who is black, accused to be from a Muslim family, is an important event in itself, especially when we recall the history of African Americans in the U.S. and the decades of slavery to which they were subjugated. This is also a moment of success for the democratic system of the U.S. although one should question how such a system could claim to be the best in the world when it exercised such a long discrimination against people due to the color of their skin!! In comparison, for example, the system of Islam never allowed such discrimination. The prophet Muhammad chose Bilal al Habashi for the prestigious job of Moazen and to be one of the closest people to the prophet because he was a pious man. Since that date there was no difference in Islam between “an Arab and non Arab or between a black or white people except in what they do”. Still, one can only hope that the election of a black man as a president of the United States may inspire the system to clean itself of all forms of prejudice and hatred such as its current prejudices manifested in different ways against Arabs and Muslims.

The first challenge facing president-elect Obama in his foreign strategies is to be able to hear the true voices of people beyond Oceans and to reach a real assessment of their plight. This requires a group of assistants and advisors who do not have a pre-set agenda and ready made opinions based on obvious and historical bias. The challenge for president-elect in the Middle East is to differentiate between those who kill and destroy and those who yearn to live in peace on their own land. The challenge for him is to be able to realize the maxim for which his ancestors worked and suffered which is that all people are brothers and sisters in humanity. The challenge for him is not to support occupation, humiliation and settlement at the expense of indigenous people who are killed and transferred from their homeland. President elect should see the entire story and thus he should visit Gaza and the West Bank to see the other face of Israel and not only the face presented to him by the Israeli lobby in Washington, and especially, by those who are renowned for their hatred of the Arabs and even their blatant bias against Arabs and Muslims.

There is no doubt that to be elected as a President of the United States is extremely important. But what is more important is what is to be done with this high profile post? President George W Bush was elected as a President, but what did he do with this presidency? Isn’t he thinking now “I wish I had died before becoming President?!” The issue is not just to be a president, but what to do with the presidency, how many lives you save, how many rights you return, how much justice you are able to bring to the world, and how to ensure respect for all human beings. These are big questions but their positive answers would undoubtedly serve peace, security and stability in the world at large.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

More Posts