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
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)
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
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
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
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
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.