America Elects its Second Muslim President in Barack Obama

Our first Muslim president—in the modern period—was FDR. When I say he was Muslim, I mean in the same way Pres. Clinton was our first black president.

FDR put forward the Four Freedoms:

  • Freedom of Speech/Expression
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom from Want
  • Freedom from Fear

These freedoms are to found in the Qur’an, making FDR an important American Islamic(ate) thinker.

1. Freedom of Speech/Expression

The Qur’an talks about God entrusting humanity with a Divine trust (33:72). That trust is understood to be aql, intelligence, and to exercise that gift is engage in the free marketplace of ideas. Regardless of the realpolitik of freedom of speech in Muslim majority countries, the theological imperative is there.

2. Freedom of Religion

There is no compulsion in religion (2:256). To you your religion and to me mine (109:6)

3. Freedom from Want

Righteousness is in giving of wealth. (2:177)

4. Freedom from Fear

Fear nothing except God (2:40). Do not fear those who speak in God’s name.

If this is what people fear in having a Muslim president, then we are really afraid of the wrong things. Let Pres. Obama rule like this and we can call him a Muslim president too.

I am a firm liberal, which means my best representation in this country is the Democratic Party. I give money. I volunteer. I consult.

I recently filled out a questionnaire asking why I was not involved in this cycle. The simple answer is that I’m Muslim. To be involved at any level in this cycle would risk tainting anything I was involved with. The fear of being Muslim in America reaches to all levels, and I could not have the fact that I was Muslim threaten the amazing movement building within the Democratic Party. My vote could not be taken, by my ability to help and grow the movement was severely curtailed.

When Sen. Obama’s Muslim outreach advisor resigned, several people encouraged me to submit a resumé for the position. I’m an academic with a specialization in Islam in America. I’m an activist within the Muslim-American community. I lecture extensively in the inter-faith community. I would appear to be a natural fit. I’m used to a personal level of scrutiny. However, the virulence with which Islamophobes are going after Muslims means important and necessary resources could be diverted or exhausted covering a flank that didn’t need to be exposed. I hope in the next year being a Muslim is not an intrinsic liability.

Next year, I want to say I’m a Muslim, an American, and a Democrat.

Having recently waited for the Aga Khan in his recent visit to the US…

Having spoken to Catholic friends about their expectation of a Papal visit…

I am struck by how much waiting for the Presidential returns is like waiting for the arrival of a spiritual leader. The countdown. The expectation. The excitement. Perhaps it’s because of my support for Sen. Obama, who has been likened to both Jesus and Superman, there is an air of the supernatural about his expected elevation.

Even during the great Bubba revolution of 1992 I don’t recall the level of excitement. The Gipper was apotheosized after his term. I wonder if the near mystic experience of this night will get us talking seriously about the role of religion in this country.

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