In his first days in the White House, President Obama emphasized his intent to reach out to Muslims in the U.S. and around the world, and has taken steps to demonstrate this intent. His recent state visit to Turkey further highlights his intent to cement positive relations with countries in the Muslim world.
What challenges and opportunities does the Obama presidency present for American Muslims, and should the American Muslim community adopt a new approach to achieve its goals? Dr. Mazrui and the audience addressed these questions during the roundtable discussion.
Americans elected Obama to office in a climate where religious and cultural prejudice is on the rise in America and racial prejudice is declining, according to Dr. Mazrui. Obama broke through the race barrier in becoming president. It remains to be seen if he can reverse the trend of rising religious and cultural bias, particularly against Islam.
During Obama’s 100 days, American Muslims should evaluate the president on his existential credentials—how he is likely to respond to issues important to Muslims based on his upbringing and background; his past performance; and his fulfillment of pledges in the future. In this manner, American Muslims can determine the best approach during this administration to the following issues: Muslim American voter turnout and mobilization by issue and candidates; American foreign policy, especially regarding relations with Muslim states; and concerns of ethics and social justice.
American Muslims should consider not only what Obama can do for them, but also what unique opportunities the Obama presidency presents for the American Muslim community.