A hope named Obama

www.bangkokpost.com - 30 October 2008 - From Tariq Ramadan

The new president must begin with symbolic actions to demonstrate that the life of an Afghan, an Iraqi or a Muslim is worth no less than that of an American.
Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, has been named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world's top 100 intellectuals. His most recent book is In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons From the Life of Muhammad. Ramadan teaches at Oxford University.

The eight years of George W Bush's presidency have accustomed us to so many errors, lies, wilful distortions and political manipulation that a page is about to be turned in the history of the United States.

Since September 2001, the Bush regime has been obsessed by the ''global war on terror'' and the conflict with the "axis of evil." But over time, Americans have awakened to the emptiness of these bellicose and arrogant slogans.

Barack Obama's election would be an event to be welcomed for several reasons; yet we must not be lulled into complacency by naive estimates of what lies ahead.

Barak Obama's roots, his past and his multiple cultural identities stand in stark contrast to the profiles of George W Bush or John McCain. His understanding of, and relations with, the countries of the world _ particularly of the global South _ and with American society itself point to a different outcome. Taken together, his life and experience make hope for a new understanding of domestic and international issues possible.

On the most fundamental level, Colin Powell has laid out the terms of reference: Barack Obama is not a Muslim; he is black and Christian. But, in the final analysis, what if he were a Muslim? What is wrong with being ''African-American'' or ''Muslim'' in today's America? (...)