The American Muslim community, made up largely of immigrants from the ME and South Asia, is in a depressed mood these days. Their gloom is in marked contrast to the upbeat posture they gleefully flaunted at the time of the presidential election November 2000, when they overwhelmingly voted for George W Bush; statistics later compiled spoke of more than 70 % of them voting for the Republican Bush against the Democratic contender, Al Gore. Their near-blind faith in Bush and the Republicans stood out against the African-Americans' and Black Muslims' rejection of Bush. The Black minority never trusted the Republicans enough to put their eggs in Bush basket. Time has quickly proved them right and the Muslim immigrants wrong.
The immigrant Muslim vote in favor of Bush was overwhelmingly cast in the elusive hope that his Republican administration would be more sympathetic to Muslim causes around the world. By contrast, Gore was suspected to be more Jewish pro-active because he had a Jew-- Senator Libberman-- as his running mate. Apparently, both premises were adopted without any logical or empirical inquiry and had no historical evidence to buttress them. The Republicans, since Nixon, have been as sympathetic to Israel and the Jewish causes as the Democrats could ever be. The 'gurus' of the Muslim migr community did not, perhaps, remember that in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when the Jewish state was teetering under a massive Egyptian and Arab onslaught, it was a Republican president, Nixon, who lost no time in establishing an air-bridge between Europe and Israel to ferry into the beleaguered state huge quantities of lethal arsenal which ultimately shored up Israel and tipped the scales in its favor. No American administration, irrespective of its stripes, has ever since looked back on Israel and massive support for it to make it stronger than the collective strength of its Arab adversaries.
Apparently, the Muslim 'leadership' also did not have any inkling of the arcane world of U.S. politics. They seemed totally oblivious to the fact that the traditional sources of funding that the Republicans regularly draw upon for sustenance are largely controlled by the well heeled and equally well-organized Jewish 'establishment.' Anyone who believed, or dreamed, that George W Bush would turn his back on that powerful establishment or stop paying heed to its call, were living in a world of their own fanciful imagination. It was nave, if not puerile, to think that just because the Muslim Diaspora in the U.S. was voting with its feet against the Democrats, Bush would stop dancing to the tune of the big pipers paying him and waltz, instead, with his new 'benefactors'.
Obviously the 'minders' of the bloc Muslim vote gave not a whit about George W walking every bit in the shadow of his father, Bush Sr. Otherwise they might have recalled that it was George Bush who committed $ 10 billion in U.S. loans to cover the Israeli government's massive expansion plans for more Jewish settlements on lands expropriated from the poor and hapless Palestinians. Need a proof of this George W. administration being a carbon copy of his father's? Just look at the faces, mostly old, jaded and dating from his father's vintage, which make up his team. Another evidence of the son walking in the footsteps of his father came within weeks of George W. stepping into the Oval Office when he recklessly and arrogantly bombed Iraq to leave his hawkish signature there, just like his father had done.
The decision to ditch Gore--notwithstanding the traditional underdog support to the Democrats seen as a party of the poor compared to the Republican white-collar appeal--was also knee-jerk and irrational. It was solely spurred on by the anger caused in the Muslim ranks by Gore's choice of an orthodox Jew as his running mate. In the flash of passion, no thought was given to the Democrats' impressive record of pro-active engagement in causes concerning the Islamic world, most notably in the Palestinian-Israeli imbroglio. No president since Eisenhower had leaned as much, or as hard, on Israel on issues of war and peace in the Arab world and the ME as Clinton, whose understudy Gore was. Yes, it was shortsighted of Gore to have settled on Libberman as his running mate but that was not such a big deal in the backdrop of America's well-known weakness for Israel and the Jews. Besides, it has been a curious feature of American political history since the Second World War that most radical decisions changing the course of U.S. orientation of the outside world have been taken by presidents thought to be most radical themselves. Nixon was the most outstanding example of it. Conservative to a fault, he was the one who put an end to two decades of brazen American hostility to China. Later, the same Nixon bit the bullet to extricate the U.S. from Vietnam-- in humiliation and ignominy, though-- a venture begun by a liberal like Kennedy. There was, by this token, every possibility that Gore as president, conscious of his visible proximity to the Jews and Israel, would have acted with greater circumspection and restraint in dealing with the sensitive Palestinian-Israeli problem than has Bush, so far.
The naivet and illogic of their decision to bank on Bush did not take long to dawn on the Muslim community leaders. Bush bared his anti-Arab knuckles within a month of taking over the reins of his office. Iraq was the first recipient of his blind fury to register his hawkish credentials. Soon after, an equally hawkish Ariel Sharon, the new Israeli Prime Minister, was invited to Washington and apparently given the green light to crack down on the oppressed Palestinians in the Occupied territories with unprecedented ferocity. Colin Powell, the architect of the 1991 'Desert Storm' and now Bush' Secretary of State-- and no doubt eager to be more loyal than the king-- went a step further and suggested to 'compensate' Israel for its barbaric crackdown on the Palestinians with more aid in weapons and money. Bush also left no one guessing about his proclivity to court India over Pakistan in the South Asian context, much to the chagrin of his Pakistani supporters who dreamed of the Republicans--their traditional friends as compared to the Democrats--embracing them all over again with a greater warmth.
Disillusioned but still unwilling to take a reality check, the Muslim 'leadership' in the U.S. has quickly descended into a familiar game of finger-pointing and name-calling against one another. Such a churlish behavior is quite unsurprising; for the simple reason that the 'leaders' represent hardly anyone but themselves and a few cronies and relatives. Except for the old-established Arab bastion in Michigan (where the Lebanese workers were brought in by Henry Ford in the early 20th century to work in his assembly plants) the rest of the Muslim Diaspora is led by bounty hunters of little consequence. These are men of straw who have somehow made a bit of big money in this land of plenty, and now want to flaunt their 'success' by stepping into the political arena. They are mostly businessmen, or professionals, such as medical doctors and engineers -- with hardly the credentials for success in the Byzantine political world of the U.S. But because they have money, they are disinclined to yield ground to others and insist on hogging the political center with their inadequate academic and intellectual assets.
It is obvious that the Muslim leadership in America was ill equipped and ill prepared, intellectually, to deal with the complex world of lobbying, which is the euphemism for influence- peddling. Their approach to this conundrum was too simplistic and nave to yield any solid or lasting benefits. They thought that pumping money--and that, too, fairly insignificantly--would be enough for them to gain clout in political quantum. This run-of-the-mill approach may work in the third world but doesn't in the U.S. system where painstaking infrastructure work is an ineluctable reality to get anywhere near the political mainstream. The powerful Jewish lobby is an enviable model of how to tunnel into the inner core of decision-making in America. Indeed money is important, but much more important is the spadework that must precede the ultimate stage of doling out money that translates into influence buying. The Jews in America have had money for much longer than their current chokehold over the 'system'. But for decades the Jews lay low, consolidated their ranks by digging deep into the vital sinews of the American political landscape, and only later wormed their way into Washington's throbbing sanctum where real decisions are crafted. That is exactly how it must be done. Lobbying is an art, which requires painstakingly hard work, and a lot of fine- tuning. That kind of regimen is nowhere in sight with the Muslim leadership. The machinery needed to spawn the vital infrastructure for lobbying is only too conspicuous by its absence in the case of American Muslims. They simply do not have the patience to invest in longer gestation spadework. They want instant results, and get easily frustrated and miffed when that is not the case. What they need to learn is that lobbying is not a vending machine where you insert a coin and obtain the object of your desire instantly. Gratification in a jiffy is simply not possible in the slow-grinding American system of patronage and spoils. Political clout demands a lot of resilience to build.
The biggest hurdle in the evolution of an efficient and effective Muslim lobby is the egotistical and parochial interests of the largely self-appointed, if not inflicted, Muslim leadership. Their interests and objectives are mostly parochial. Most of those digging into their pockets to dish out money to political causes and candidates do so for self-promotion. The feudal mentality of most of these moneyed people spurs them to use their donations to climb the social ladder and get one up on their peers. This one-upmanship for fame and glory leads them often into blind alleys. All that most of them are seeking is to get them photographed with a political celebrity, and put up that photograph in a gaudy, gilded frame in their drawing rooms to impress their peers and visitors. That is about all the political sophistication and savvy they have. Working for hard and demanding causes is, often, beyond them and their intellectual reach.
So, the Muslims would continue to be frustrated and disappointed unless they get their act together. What they need is teams of dedicated professionals and specialists focusing on real issues and areas of special interest to the Muslim community in America, as well as in the world beyond. A permanent staff will have to be assembled to regularly brainstorm on the intricacies and challenges of American politics and then chart out a road map for the Muslim community. In a nutshell, patience, lots of it, and issues-oriented research -and - recommendation must become the primer for Muslims of America if they want to get anywhere on the road to recognition and real cognizance of their vital interests from a multi-focused American political apparatus. It will, necessarily by the nature of it, be a long haul. There are no quick fixes or short cuts in it, and anybody looking for them would simply be wasting their time, money and energy. They should make room for others more qualified than them to carry the mantle of Muslim leadership in America.