By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
In one of the most hotly contested elections, American voters handed over control of the US House of Representatives to Democrats with three clear messages: the war in Iraq must be brought to a quick conclusion, Muslims must be trusted with political office, and bigots who use their positions to promote hatred must be brought out of political office.
Keith Elision became the first Muslim congressman in the history of the United States, and senator Santorum, the ardent Zionist who in fact coined the term Islamo-fascist was routed. With the exception of Joe Lieberman, an ardent war supporter, almost all the war-mongers suffered heavy defeat.
The presence of a Muslim in Congress at a time when Islam is under attack in the United States is of monumental consequence. The important thing is not what he does, the important thing is that he is there. His presence should chill the anti-Muslim rhetoric that spins from the far-right when bigots fail to realize that their hurtful words reach and affect Muslims. His presence may inspire Muslims to overcome their apathy towards the political process. It will certainly motivate many Muslims to rethink their indifferent attitude towards elections. His victory reassures Muslim political activists that Americans are willing to shed their biases against Muslims and Islam when Muslims are seen as a part of the political fabric that covers all, and not just as an isolated and unimportant ethnicity or sect or religious community.
Elision will add a new voice in the political discourse that was missing for so long, a fair voice of peace and justice.
Senator Sentorumâ€™s defeat is a sign of warning to all those who want to use public office to benefit special interests. Despite the fact that he was heavily funded by groups and individuals loyal to AIPAC, he could not muster more than 40 percent of the votes. His defeat reassures voters that special interests donâ€™t necessarily win all the time. It also demonstrates that even the most powerful and ardent supporter of a foreign country can be defeated.
However, the verdict on the war in Iraq is perhaps the loudest of all. People are tired of spending 2 billion dollars a week on this war. They are upset at the political immaturity of the Bush Administration in pushing the country to a war that was not necessary. By handing over a crushing defeat to those who supported the Bush doctrine of war, the American voters have in fact held the Administration guilty of the more than half a million deaths that have taken place in Iraq during the last three years. They have rejected the ridiculous argument that the war in Iraq was intended as a part of the war on terrorism. They have also rejected the doctrine of preventive wars.
Now the Democrats have to prove that they hear this message.
The new speaker of the house in her victory speech promised to give Americans the most honest and the cleanest congress ever. Well, the beginning can be made by highlighting the following issues.
All those civil rights violations that have deprived Muslims of their dignified status in the country should be fully investigated.
Those freedoms that are guaranteed by the constitution but taken away by the Bush Administration should be restored.
Financial accountability of war expenses must be instituted.
The misuse of power by the president in violating the privacy of Americans must be looked into.
The relationship between special interest groups (specifically big oil) and the Bush Administration must be given priority, especially insofar as this potentially corrupt relationship has damaged vital long-term American interests.
The mess created by the Bush-Cheney team in Iraq must be accounted for.
Above all, the financial mishandling of the Iraq war must also be accounted for.
The Democratic congress has an opportunity to give the country a new direction and create a better image of America in the world by challenging policies that have brought disaster for Americans as well as the world. Can they avail the opportunity to bring about positive change?
Let us hope that the desire to win the 2008 Presidential election will lead them to bring about changes that are necessary at this juncture.