Me and We


By Mowahid Hussain Shah

A message that is more “Me” than “We” shall not have
the broader appeal of a winning message.
This is the realization that has crept up in the
aftermath of Obama’s win over Romney, which showed the limits of a narrow
xenophobic theme.
Exempting any entity, group, or individual from
critical scrutiny invites big trouble. The downfall of the media-darling General
David Petraeus exemplifies the pitfalls of overdoing imagery.
The foregoing is equally applicable on the foreign
policy front. The carnage at Gaza once again drives home the message that the
core-underlying crisis of the Middle East is neither Iraq nor Iran. It is the
deep-rooted Palestinian disinheritance, which remains unresolved because of the
free pass Israel has.
Recently, I addressed a well-informed delegation of
visiting Pakistani officials, most of whom had formed an otherwise positive
impression of the United States. They were, however, struck by the uniformity
and one-sidedness of the official US stance on Israel, which they found hard to
reconcile with the basic democratic principles of diversity of opinion.
The other day, I attended the first-ever Congressional
briefing on the use of drones, hosted by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, at
Washington’s Capitol Hill – seat of the US Congress. Kucinich has written a
letter to Obama appending the signatures of 25 fellow Congressmen in which the
drone attacks were slammed for having “virtually no transparency,
accountability, or oversight”, and further depicting them as “ambassadors of
The briefing detailed the harrowing consequences of
drone attacks, which have inflicted mayhem on civilian lives and social fabric,
with all its counter-productive outcomes. The US Congress was reminded to play
its constitutional counter-balancing oversight role, which thus far it has not.
Kucinich asked how Americans would feel if China were to violate US airspace and
launch drone strikes on American territory.
Islamabad’s posture is queer. It consents and dissents
at the same time. Nations that don’t set their internal house in order invite
intrusive encroachment and micro-management by outside powers.
Missing from the American conversation is a visible,
coherent, and effective counter-voice. Can a resurgent Muslim voice crystallize
with clarity, without calamity being first thrust upon the community?
The inclusion of minorities and instilling in them a
sense of belonging makes a society more stable and more participatory. Britain,
for example, has more or less accepted that it is a multi-cultural, pluralist
society and that has bolstered the participation of Muslims in British
mainstream society. The unveiling of a bronze statue earlier this month of Noor
Inayat Khan – a World War II heroine and kin of Tipu Sultan – by Princess Anne
in London is a case in point.
There are other positive examples, too: of Nasser
Hussain becoming cricket captain of England, of Michael Nazir-Ali nearly
becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury, of Sayeeda Warsi becoming the
co-chairperson of the Conservative Party, of Muslims becoming BBC anchors, of
hit British movies inspired by the Pakistani immigrant experience, such as “East
is East” and “West is West,” and of Prince Charles’ open acknowledgement of the
debt the West owes to Muslim civilization.
In the fight for fairness, the main challenge is not to
succumb to defeatism.