OTHERHOOD Islam and Extinction of Race Consciousness

Barack Hussein Obama has won the presidency of the United States. Many have called this victory the sheer magic of the Obama wave; picture perfect family making their way to the White House; Americans voted to make America a better country, etc. etc.

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Barack Hussein Obama has won the presidency of the United States. Many have called this victory the sheer magic of the Obama wave; picture perfect family making their way to the White House; Americans voted to make America a better country, etc. etc.

The global economic crisis has made the people of the world more interested in the elections in these United States than any other time in history. Cable television, internet and cell phones have brought people much closer to each other, and have made them realise that the people of the world are one and the same and on the same boat,  rather on the same spaceship – the Earth.

At 8:00 pm, November 4, 2008, Election Day in the United States, the polling booths closed in California, the western most state in the US. Immediately the news media declared that Obama is the winner of the presidency of the United States. Obama was far ahead in the vote count and it did not matter that the votes in the state of California had not yet been counted. It was 10:00 pm in Chicago, Obama’s hometown.

Arrangements had already been made in a big park in Chicago to welcome Obama if he wins the presidency. This is in contrast with the traditional way used by the President-elect for thanking the people of the United States. In the past those seeking the presidency would stay in big hotels with their families and/or friends. When the polls close and the winner is declared, the President-elect will emerge from his room and walk into the largest conference hall in the hotel where his supporters, party members, mass media and well wishers would welcome him as the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States.  This time, on November 4, 2008, the victory rally was held outdoor for Obama, in a park.

Obama, after being declared as the President-elect and after accepting congratulations from John McCain, his opponent in the presidential race, came to the park and addressed his well-wishers from a podium that was specially constructed for the occasion. Top Democratic Party leaders, African American leaders, television and movie personalities and several thousand Americans were present in the park to welcome and hear Obama. One of the African American leaders present in the park was Rev. Jesse Jackson. Many times the television camera was focused on him, showing tears flowing from his eyes.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, an African American, is one of the most powerful leaders of the US. He was an associate of Martin Luther King and had fought for the civil rights for the minorities in the United States. In 1984 and again in 1988, he was a candidate for the Presidency of the United States, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination. During the 1984 presidential campaign he established a political organisation called Rainbow Coalition. During the campaign Jackson welcomed voters from a broad spectrum of races and creeds. He addressed them as a “Rainbow Coalition” of the disadvantaged and poor people of the United States of America. He supports all minorities, especially the African Americans to achieve social and economic stability. And now, Jesse Jackson, who lost two bids to secure the Democratic nomination for the US presidency was crying at the victory rally for Barack Hussein Obama.

Dr. Abdul Razzak Abu Khora was the Chairman of the Islamic Centre of Southern California, Los Angeles in 1988, when he invited Rev. Jesse Jackson to speak to the Muslims of Southern California about his aspirations to become the President of the United States and improve the conditions of the lower strata of the American people.  Jesse Jackson came to the Islamic Centre and spoke to the leadership first on the second floor meeting hall of the Islamic Centre. He asked the Muslim leadership to support his organisation “Rainbow Coalition” and his candidacy for the presidency.  Later, in the big conference hall on the first floor of the Islamic Centre Dr. Abdul Razzak Abu Khora introduced him to the audience and said, “Here we have Egyptians, Moroccans, Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Saudis, Libyans, indigenous Americans from various states including California, Sudanese and others; Rev. Jackson, this is the Rainbow Coalition.”

When Dr. Abdul Razzak Abu Khora said these words, the following verses from the Qur’an came to my mind:  “No compulsion in religion” (Sura 2 verse 256).   “O mankind Lo! We have created you of male and female and have made you people and tribes that you may know one another. Truly, the most worthy of honour in the Sight of God is he who feared Him most” (Sura 49, verse 13). And, “And whoso doeth good an atom’s weight shall see it then, and whoso doeth ill an atom’s weight shall see it then” (Sura 99, Verse 7 & 8).  Also, a saying of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) who said, “An Arab has no merit over a non-Arab unless he is of greater piety.”  These verses and sayings again came to my mind when I saw Rev. Jesse Jackson crying on November 4, 2008.

The election of Barack Hussein Obama also reminded me about what Arnold Toynbee said in his book Civilization on Trial:

“Two conspicuous sources of danger – one psychological and the other material – in the present relation of cosmopolitan proletariat with the dominant elements in our society are race consciousness and alcohol and in the struggle with each of these evils the Islamic spirit has a service to render which might prove if it were accepted to be of high moral and social value. The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the moral achievements of Islam and in the contemporary world there is a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue. If the attitude of the exponents of racial intolerance towards the race question prevails, it may eventually provoke a general catastrophe.  It is conceivable that the spirit of Islam might be the timely reinforcement which would decide this issue in favour of tolerance and peace”.

Congratulations, Barack Hussein Obama, for being chosen as the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America.  The Muslims of America are already working and will continue to work for tolerance and peace (one of the meanings of Islam is peace) in these United States of America and throughout the world.

[Mohammad Yacoob is the former Vice Chairman of the Islamic Centre of Southern California, Los Angeles.]