What do American Muslims expect from President-elect Barack Obama? What can they do to help redefine their role in U.S. society? Those questions topped the agenda at the recent annual meeting of the private Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, in Washington D.C., attended by more than 700 Muslim-American activists from across the country.
In his opening remarks at the annual fund-raising banquet, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad called on Obama to pursue a less-militaristic policy in the Muslim world and to open his administration to the ideas and talents of Muslim-Americans.
"We are asking President-elect Barack Obama to deliver [on] his promise and end the illegal war in Iraq, and also we ask him not to escalate the war in Afghanistan and to seek consultation and counsel from American Muslims, who care both about America and the world," Awad said. "Finally, we are asking Barack Obama to be inclusive in his administration, because so far he has been accommodating to many minorities.
"American Muslims have been left out so far. We hope that he will hire qualified American Muslims to serve in his administration, and there are plenty of talents."
The CAIR director also urged Obama to "restore the rule of law" that Awad said has been eroded over the past eight years by the Bush administration. Awad expressed the hope Obama's administration will be, as he put it, more respectful of the rights of people of all faiths.
"American Muslims feel left out. American Muslims feel [they are] being selectively targeted by certain agencies, and American Muslims should not be deprived from giving legitimate charitable work for needy people, and also American Muslims have to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to domestic policies and foreign policies, especially when it is pertaining to the Muslim world."
Awad said the "politics of fear" had failed to distract American voters from the real issues during the November national elections. He noted how a controversial documentary film linking Islam with terrorism was widely distributed across the United States by some conservative American political groups, just weeks prior to the November presidential election. But the tactic failed to excite much public interest, and it did not discourage American Muslim voters from going to the polls in record numbers. (MORE)