Although I want Barack Obama to win and have even volunteered to do a bit to help the local campaign in a Northern Virginia neighbourhood, he may turn out to be like Saint Theresa’s answered prayers for which, she said, more tears are shed than for unanswered ones. The vile and nasty ultra-conservative propaganda mills have been working without pause since Obama became a serious contender for the presidency. They accuse him of being an undeclared Muslim.
This vile misinformation campaign began as innuendo but before long grew into a reputation demolition onslaught. The Internet is teeming with anti-Obama accusations. The basic object of this ugly exercise is to spread the word that Obama is a secret Muslim, who went to a madrassa, whose father was an African Muslim and whose mother was a left-wing hippy who abandoned her son to be raised by her parents.
Thanks to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist zealots, half the people in America, if not more, feel uneasy with both Islam and Muslims. I have heard more than once that while all Muslims are not terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims.
Obama is a church-going Christian, although his minister, whom he has since disowned, had some very bizarre ideas and opinions. There are many Americans who believe that Obama is the Antichrist mentioned in the Bible. If you Google the words ‘Obama’ and ‘Antichrist’ you will find one million different entries, most of them asserting that he indeed is the Antichrist. There are so many distortions of the Biblical text to prove that Obama is the dreaded Antichrist that it makes one shudder.
One site claims that it is written in the Book of Revelation that the Antichrist would be a Muslim (which the site believes Obama to be). The Book of Revelation is second century, while Islam’s advent was still 400 years in the future. Another site claims that Obama’s birth name was Barry but he changed it to Barack because Buraq was the steed that took the Prophet (PBUH) to heaven. Another site points out that Obama hails from Chicago whose zip code is 60606, which contains three sixes, which is the number of the Beast or the Devil, according to the Book of Revelation.
The horrifying thing is that there are people in America who may actually believe this mindless and dangerous mumbo jumbo.
I can’t shake off the feeling that if Obama wins, in order to prove that he is neither Muslim nor the Antichrist, he may land on Muslims like a ton of bricks. If he has such a hit list, there can be no doubt that we are on it, and closer to the top than the bottom. But maybe his association with Pakistan and Pakistanis in his younger days will make him hold his hand.
Prof Adil Najam, who teaches at Boston University and runs the popular blog All Things Pakistan, recently wrote that most Pakistanis seem to like Obama. Not many of them may know that Obama may have slightly deeper and more personal connections to Pakistan. “First, there is the story circulating around that Barack Obama’s mother lived in Pakistan for five years. It is quite clear that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, did indeed work and live in Pakistan as a consultant to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), working on a project in Gujranwala.”
Najam is sceptical if the 5-year bit can be true, based as it is on a news report published in an Urdu daily. I am sceptical too. The report said that Ann Dunham lived in what today is the Hotel Avari but would have been the Park Luxury Hotel in those days. She is said to have travelled to Gujranwala every day. If that is true, then surely having endured that back and forth trip every day of the week for five years, Ann Dunham earned herself a place in heaven.
The young Obama has of course visited Pakistan. As Najam noted, he visited Pakistan in 1981, on the way back from Indonesia, where his mother and half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, were living. He spent about three weeks in Pakistan, his press secretary, Bill Burton, has said, adding that Obama stayed in Karachi with the family of his college friend, Mohammed Hasan Chandoo. The New York Times has reported that he had a number of Pakistani friends during his college days, and it was that friendship which brought him to Pakistan.
In his autobiography, Obama recalls his friend and roommate Sadik who “had overstayed his tourist visa and now made a living in New York’s high-turnover, illegal immigrant work force, waiting on tables.” During his student years in California, Obama also befriended Wahid Hamid, a Pakistani. Another of his friends was Sohale Siddiqi from Karachi, who must be the Sadik he refers to. Obama was shocked by the economic disparity he saw in Pakistan. He couldn’t get over the sight of rural peasants bowing to the wealthy landowners they worked for as they passed.
Adil Najam writes, “So, what does all of this mean? Probably nothing. At best, next to nothing. Some Pakistanis might want to get all excited about these connections. But, frankly, they will be as misguided in doing so as would be Obama bashers who would like to concoct deep conspiracies and imagine dark implications of these amusing, but eventually inconsequential and incidental connections of a young student.”
Obama as president may simply refuse to be “owned” by his Pakistani admirers. Although he has the reputation of being a nice man, it is possible that he may do to those of us who consider him “apna banda” — our own man — more or less what the English cricketer Nasser Hussain did to an ardent, starry-eyed Lahori fan of his when he was there with the MCC. The young Lahori approached Nasir Hussain, grabbed him by the hand and said in Punjabi, “Tussi te apnay Musalman bhra niklay, burri khushi ho rayee vai.” Nasir Hussain shook his hand free and said to the intruder in his pucca sahib English, “I don’t speak Indian.”
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Daily Times, 28/9/2008