New Delhi, November 01: Barack Obama is ‘better’ than George Bush, say Indian Muslims though they don’t consider the US as Muslim-friendly yet, adding when the American president arrives he can expect a warm welcome from the community members.
There would be no demonstrations by the community to protest the high-level visit from Nov 6, say Muslim leaders who had organised rallies against George Bush’s visit in 2006 to protest his Iraq and Afghanistan war policy.
For Indian Muslims, Obama, who has advocated a partnership with Muslim communities across the globe on the basis of ‘mutual interest and respect’, is better than his predecessor, although they are not too happy with the US’ policy towards the Islamic world. Muslims constitute 14 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population, the third largest number in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.
Obama, the first African-American president whose Kenyan family has Islamic roots, has three American Muslims on coveted positions in the White House – and all are of Indian origin.
In his historic speech at Cairo University last year, Obama called for a ‘new beginning’ with the Muslim world that constitutes one-fourth of the world population.
Muslims leaders in India say though there has been no drastic change in the US policy, yet they have developed a soft corner for Obama.
‘There would be no demonstration. There is no programme as such,’ Syed Ahmed Bukhari, head priest of Delhi’s biggest mosque Jama Masjid, said.
Bukhari feels ‘George Bush and Obama are different’.
‘There has been less anti-Muslim rhetoric from the White House since Obama took over. Obama doesn’t sound as fiery as Bush was,’ said the priest who leads thousands of Muslims in their prayers at the mosque.
Muslims are ‘less angry at Obama though they don’t consider the US as Muslim-friendly yet’, he added.
‘The Muslim world still awaits justice in Afghanistan, in Iraq… Muslims want dignity. Peace and justice for Palestinians is the biggest test for Obama to pass before he wins the love of the Muslim world.’
Moulana Niyaz Ahmed Farooqi of the Jamiat-e Ulema-e-Hind, one of the oldest Muslim outfits in the sub-continent, said the ‘change seeker president had advocated changes in perception towards Muslims’.
‘But mere words won’t help. Muslims in America or those who visit America face racial discrimination. They are racially profiled. Obama’s verbal promises have not taken a practical shape as yet,’ Farooqi said.
‘He had generated hopes, but the Palestine issue still exists. But I still believe that we, the Muslims, have no other way than to keep our hopes alive. We still believe Obama is better than Bush.’
Zafarul-Islam Khan, editor of fortnightly Milli Gazette published from Delhi, said Bush was ‘starkly anti-Muslim and was majorly propagating hate-Muslim propaganda unlike Obama’.
‘We know practically there has been no change in America’s policy’ even as the White House has three high-profile Muslim officers to engage with the Islamic world.
‘But there is a change in their tone now,’ Khan told said.
US Special Representative for Muslims Farah Pandith, and US representative to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain visited India this year and met Indian Muslim leaders in the run up to Obama’s trip.
Eboo Patel, an Indian-American Muslim from Chicago, is also in the White House on Obama’s advisory council for faith.
Khan, who also met the two US officials, said the visits by Pandith and Hussain were exercises to build ‘goodwill and faith’.
‘But Obama would earn lots of goodwill if he stops Israel from building Jewish settlements in the occupied territory of Palestine, if the US stops from discrimination against Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme’.