Uninformed Advisors

By G. Mujtaba

Just when American Muslims are beginning to get their civic house in order, a slate of partisan, and largely uninformed, advisors have emerged on the scene.
While it is perfectly fine for any member of the global village to get involved in any conversation, the right to participate should not be confused either with expertise or disinterestedness.

As they have every right to opine about the role and conduct of the American Muslim community, the American Muslim has every right to critically evaluate their interventions.

Most of these “advisors” are journalists or politicians. A few of the journalists, reporters as well as columnists, are based here in the United States, the rest are in their respective countries. Many of them have never been to the United States; others have had brief (mostly USIS or State-Department) visits.

Some of the journalists, including some Pakistani columnists, could not justify on merit one or the other candidate from the point of view of community interests but instead have been advocating following local and petty interests in choosing the political candidates. Their approach has been for the community not to be committed to one candidate so that in case of either succeeding they should not be cutting a sorry figure.

Some of the journalists viewed the whole process from the narrow perspective of the interests of Pakistan, either in terms of the conventional wisdom or in terms of the interests of the Musharraf government.

There are four Pakistani perspectives that inform such advice:
One of these perspectives is aptly described by a headline in Pakistan Link dated Nov. 12, 2004: “Lahories Bet on US Elections”. Though betting on American elections is also done in Europe and elsewhere, it fundamentally signifies the attitude of betting on the winning horse. Journalists espousing this perspective basically want Pakistani Americans to support the winning horse regardless of all other geopolitical, cultural, political, and economic factors.

The second group of Pakistani journalists looks at it in terms of personal – Musharraf-Bush – relations. It is assumed what is good for Musharraf is also good for Pakistan. It is further assumed that a re-elected Bush Administration will not only like to keep the Musharraf regime in office, it will also protect and promote Pakistan’s vital interests.

The third group of journalists thinks in terms of historical patterns and affiliations: Republicans are historically more supportive of Pakistan than Democrats. This group usually ignores all post 9/11 developments, shifts and realignments. It is unable to account for post cold war and post 9/11 changes in the US geo-strategic and geo-military strategies.

The fourth group wants to preach to Pakistani-Americans what they normally preach: Pakistanis don’t get too involved with politics. Their advice for minimum participation becomes more pronounced under a military regime. Journalists in this category don’t want Pakistani-Americans to think of themselves as citizens but as consumers of public service and lobbyist of various policy options.
Neither of these groups has a clear idea of ground realities. Even a person playing solitaire has a greater sense of opposition. Many Pakistani journalists advising Pakistani Americans do not countenance changes in the American perception of India and political fortunes of Indian Americans during the last three years.

According to published reports, Republicans like Henry Kissinger, who have previously opposed India, are now calling it a world power and supporting its candidature for an expanded UN Security Council. Many key Republicans, including President Bush, considers India as the lynchpin of their Asia strategy.

today, Indian Americans are one of the wealthiest and best-educated communities with a median household income of $60, 093 compared with $41, 110 for white families.

In 2004 elections, Indian Americans have made impressive gains at the polls. While one Indian candidate Bobby Jindal has won a seat in the US House of Representatives from Louisiana, four others won seats in State Senates and Assemblies. At least a dozen more have won offices at city and county levels.
Those advising us from Pakistan have very little, if any, knowledge of these developments.

Lack of research and investigative journalism is the most pervasive handicap of Pakistani columnists. Information is mostly acquired through secondary sources, small networks of personal friends, embassy staff and mere guesswork.
The overseas journalists offer their advice from a perspective that has very little relevance to the existential realities to the Pakistani Americans or American Muslims. Pakistani Americans can hardly expect to make a difference on their own. They can gain much greater leverage by remaining an integral part of the American Muslim community.

The perspective of Muslim community interests has been far wider and far more mainstream than what was assumed by those who has been either not associated with the mainstream American politics or not directly connected with it while sitting far away from the American continent.

If the Muslims had not raised voice against injustices and kept voting in their individual capacity, they would have lost their potential to express strength and would have encouraged the perpetrators of discriminatory practices to further suppress smaller communities with impunity. The Muslim community’s decision to unite for the cause of securing civil liberties and expressing dislike for policies of war has also brought it closer to other organizations struggling for the same cause.

Organizing a community is a daunting affair but motivating it for a united franchise to realize certain objectives is a gigantic task and that too in the face of criticism from vested interests advocating following the winning streaks with local scope. That would have caused the fading of a great Muslim community, which is now represented by its remarkable performance on showing above-average turnout and overwhelming unitary polling trend as an acknowledgement to the call of their leadership.

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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