We say to all those who fight for our “liberation” (read on, Mr. Bush): If you are truly interested in our well-being, why don’t you stop propping up the myriad dictatorships that have spread like a cancer in our society?
By Hamdan Yousuf
Since the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the dominant factor in the West’s relationship with the Islamic world has been an overbearing and incredibly offensive sense of paternalism and cultural superiority. In the past, this sentiment was manifested in the propagation of vicious and demeaning stereotypes. Today, it takes root in the use of violence to suppress the free yearnings of the Muslim people, often in the name of the best interests of the Muslims.
Mr. Bush recently noted in a debate: “Some say that if you’re Muslim, you can’t be free. I disagree with that”. While this may seem fair enough to the unseasoned observer, to the Muslim, it reeks of the same ugly paternalism that has long been used to justify so much evil. Because what the president is really saying is that if you are Muslim, the only way you can have freedom is if the West provides it to you. Forget that freedom is “the Almighty’s gift to humanity”; the only way the Muslim can attain freedom is at the gunpoint of the Western liberator. Mao Zedong once said “power comes from the barrel of a gun”. Well, for Mr. Bush, power comes from forcibly imposing “freedom” on others, regardless of whether this “freedom” is in the best interests of the person on whom it is being imposed.
As a Muslim-American who has lived in the Middle East, my message to all those entities who are killing and shedding blood in my name is simple: Not in my name. It is infuriating enough that Mr. Bush continues to stubbornly insist that he was right in invading Iraq even after his top weapons inspector concluded recently that “there is no evidence that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction after 1991”, thereby decimating his main rationale for war. What is absolutely obscene is when Mr. Bush claims he was acting in the best interests of the Iraqi people. I’d like to see him tell that to the tens of thousands of innocent civilians slaughtered in cold blood. The whole situation curiously reminds one of Vietnam when generals were asked why they firebombed entire villages, to which they responded: “We had to destroy the village to save the village”. Behold the paternalistic doublespeak of the imperialists.
To date, over one thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis have been brutally killed in the name of exporting democracy (or importing oil?) We say to all those who fight for our “liberation” (read on, Mr. Bush): If you are truly interested in our well-being, why don’t you stop propping up the myriad dictatorships that have spread like a cancer in our society? Why don’t you stop aiding brutal tyrants like Mubarak, under whose reign Egypt, long renowned for its Al-Azhar University, is today notorious for the torture of political dissidents? Why don’t you withdraw support for the Pakistani dictator Musharraf who in addition to bombing his own people in Waziristan has perverted democracy to cement his iron hold on power?
In fact, if Mr. Bush is so desirous of liberating the Muslims, he should start at home, where three years after 9/11, unknown numbers of young men remain locked up, without having been charged with any crime, or being provided with access to legal counsel. Or perhaps he should “liberate” the political prisoners of Abu Ghraib, who having been subjected to inhuman torture and humiliation at the hands of the American military, give perhaps one of the most vivid examples of the fruits of this “liberation”.
America is heir to an incredibly rich tradition of fostering freedom and democracy. Founded as the Biblical ‘city on the hill’, this nation was envisioned by our founders to be a light for justice and equity, striving to eliminate oppression, and to better the world as a whole. Are we living up to these lofty ideals? It is an insult to the Muslim world for Mr. Bush to claim that he is fighting for them when in actuality he is merely trying to expand his global reach and access to oil reserves. Just one example: when Iyad Allawi, a former CIA hit man and British citizen is appointed as prime minister of Iraq, don’t be surprised when most Iraqis see through this “democracy” for what it is: a sham. In short, our message to Mr. Bush: Don’t you dare use us to justify your imperialistic ventures, because stripped of all the propaganda and glitter, that is all your actions boil down to: violent, vicious, and wholly self-serving imperialism.
Imperialism in the name of liberation? Not in my name.
M. Hamdan Azhar Yousuf, who is studying Mathematics and Economics at the Pennsylvania State University, is a Representative to the Political Action Task Force of the Muslim Student Association of the US