Rashad Hussain is Hafiz-e-Quran, law graduate from Yale University, Master in Public Administration from Harvard, an ardent basketball fan, and finally just 32 years when he was appointed by President Barack Hussain Obama as US ambassador to the Organisation of Islamic Conference six months back, that is, in February 2010. But he is one thing more: a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘pro-jihadist’ if the conservatives in the United States are to be believed.
President Obama, who has his own plan to extend his hands of friendship to the Muslim world, took help of this ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘pro-jihadist’ in drafting his Cairo speech of June 2009. Now to reach out to the Muslims of India, the country, which has second largest number of followers of Islam, ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘pro-jihadist’ Rashad Hussain was sent to this country (between August 1 and 9). Apart from New Delhi, he visited Aligarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Patna – the last being the capital of Bihar, the state wherefrom his mining engineer father, Mohammad Hussain and doctor mother, Roquiya Hussain migrated to the United States.
‘Terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘pro-jihadist’ Rashad’s appointment is definitely a part of Obama administration’s move to induct more and more Muslims in his team. Incidentally, he has packed it with experts from Indian origin rather than from other Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries though there is huge population from these countries in the United States too. Srinagar (Kashmir)-born Indian-American Muslim Farah Pandith, who is the United States Special Representative to Muslim Communities and Eboo Patel of Inter-Faith fame are some of them.
Muslims from India are being trusted more in the top job in that country because there is less possibility of their having any link with any ‘Islamic terror’ groups of the world. Even Farah Pandith’s appointment last September is being viewed in that light. True, she is a Kashmiri, but then she is a woman, which recedes this possibility.
In fact, she too visited India within a week of the appointment of Rashad last February and addressed meetings in Jamia Millia Islamia, India Islamic Cultural Centre, etc.
Yet in spite of Rashad’s Sufi background and so much care in the appointment of Muslims at the top his induction created storm in the United States and he was dubbed a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘pro-jihadist’ by right-wingers.
The big question is as to how a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘pro-jihadist’ landed up in the Obama administration. And if it is so, what would he be preaching, teaching or lecturing to the youths in India or in Muslim countries? Won’t he lack conviction in what he would say here?
Whether he is a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ or ‘pro-jihadist’ or anything else such utterances have their origin in the infamous speech of George Bush-II just after 9/11 in which he pronounced: “you are with us or you are against us.”
Even, Bush too tried to post Muslims at some important posts to soften their anger worldwide. For example, he appointed Adnan A Siddiqui of Indo-Pak origin – born in India then shifted to Pak in childhood days before landing up in the United States – as Cultural Affairs Officer in the US embassy in India.
After Rashad’s appointment last February, Obama was accused of entrusting such a serious responsibility on a man with questionable past. But Rashad’s crime was that during a panel discussion in 2004 he purportedly made a comment in defence of Sami Al-Arian, a convicted terrorist and former leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He reportedly called the prosecution of some terror suspects “politically motivated”, a comment both Hussain and the White House initially denied. With him on the panel was Laila Al-Arian, daughter of Sami Al-Arian.
If a scholar of his stature can be dubbed a terrorist for supposedly making a comment in a democratic platform, the fate of others can just be imagined.
However, credit should be given to the Obama administration for accommodating this man notwithstanding so much criticism from the opponents. But then Obama, and many others in the United States, have rather been compelled to change their views. The inclusion of men like Rashad is a part of global initiative to win over Muslims. Adopting the policy of “join them, if you cannot fight them,” this administration has made consistent efforts to woo Muslims. Immediately after becoming President, he visited Turkey and Egypt. This was preceded by his inaugural speech of January 20, 2009 in which he concentrated most of his attention on the Muslim world.
In April 2010 Obama invited 250 entrepreneurs from 60 countries of the world – half a dozen of them from India too. Earlier, the US ambassador to India, Timothy J Roemer, travelled all the way to Patna to appreciate the work done by Irfan Alam of Sammaan Foundation. Irfan, an IIM Ahmedabad pass-out from Bihar, has designed a light cycle-rickshaw, which is getting very popular all over India. Sitting on the rickshaw-puller’s seat the US ambassador pedalled the rickshaw on the streets of Patna with his own wife and Irfan’s mother seated behind. All this was a part of the larger US exercise to woo people in general and Muslims in particular. Irfan too was invited to the US as an exercise to woo entrepreneurs from the Muslim world.
The Obama administration knows it quite well that though it has ‘befriended’ leaders of almost all the Muslim countries, the United States has become increasingly isolated among the masses. Personalities like Farah Pandith and Rashad Husain have been crisscrossing the Muslim world with this very purpose.
The United States might have been compelled to undertake such a programme. But may one ask as to who had prohibited the rich Muslim countries, especially of Arabian peninsula to undertake similar exercise to promote Muslim youths and students, especially those living and excelling in poor Third World countries? Obama might have his own compulsion, but what is wrong if entrepreneurs and scholars are invited by any Muslim head of the state. If Obama can freely mix with them and leave his and his country’s impression, why can’t the others do that?
Perhaps this work would be much easier for any Arab Sheikh or Emir to do than for the first non-White American President in a much hostile atmosphere.