on obama and muslims: what desi artists are saying

Dear Readers,

The NYC based South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) has a very active listserve. There are five SAWCC messages in my inbox every day, minimum. Posts range from “Anyone know where I can get a good blow dry in Mid-town,” to “One bdrm avail in 3 bdrm Brooklyn apartment, $1400/month,” to, “Anyone have contacts for galleries in India,” to “Call For Submissions-SAWCC 11th Annual Visual Arts Show.” SAWCC is necessary, valiantly pro-art in an era where being an independent artist is both hip and a lonely road. Sometimes, SAWCC can also be confoundingly main stream. A blow dry? $1400 a month for a Brooklyn share?

But for the past two days, the SAWCC listserve has featured a political thread. The topic: Obama distancing himself from Muslims and Islam. The tenor: varied, insightful, bold. Let’s see what folks are saying.

*

“S” responds to post, “Obama Apologizes to Muslim Women Barred From Sitting Behind Him at Rally.”

S: “you guys are so wrong about Obama being sincere toward Muslim voters. This is pretty much evident that he’s embarrassed to be associated with Muslims.”

*

“This” being reporter Andrea Elliot’s front page New York Times article, “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub From Obama.” Elliot writes about how Keith Ellison, America’s first Muslim congressman, offered to speak on behalf of Obama back in December, during the candidate’s endless handshake of primary season and the state of Iowa. Representative Ellison pulled out all the stops to embrace Obama, arranged a rally and a speaking gig at a mosque and everything. But then he got royally dissed. Obama aides told him to cancel the speaking gigs. Cancel the support. Because, said the aide who visited him at his office in DC, “We have a very tightly wrapped message.”

Two “Muslim women at an Obama rally in February.” Two women in the proverbial back of the bus.

(Photojournalist: Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

*

“MR,” a Muslim woman, responds to Obama’s “tightened image.”

MR: “Seriously though, can you blame him? I’m Muslim and honestly I’m not offended.

The reality of this situation is that if he gives even an inch the right will be all over him and develop ridiculous lies to correlate him to terrorists.

We can b**** and moan all we want, but the people we should be blaming for unfair portrayals of Muslims are the terrorists.

I would much rather him tread cautiously during this race and get elected so he can create change from a position of power.”

*

“SA” agrees.

SA: I do not blame him either. The GOP is waiting, just waiting to pounce. He needs to be pragmatic. Eyes on the Prize folks.

*

“AH” takes issue with “MA” blaming “terrorists” for anti-Muslim sentiment.

AH: “‘the terrorists’ are to blame for the unfair portrayal of
Muslims??

Those who committed 9/11 were insane psychopaths and complete
outliers.

But it’s racist politicians, racist media and racist regular
people that are to blame for creating the atmosphere of fear and
irrationalism.

The terrorists held out the bait, and they took it. And it
seems, so has Obama.”

*

“FA” understands Obama distancing himself from Muslims.

FA: I do not have issue with the photo incident either. It’s just too risky at this time and if he needs to play distant publicly from Muslims (while we know he has shared interests at heart) then I am fine with it. I really just want to see this man elected.

Sadly folks, many Muslims have to distance themselves from THEMselves these days in America.

Bless him for having the courage to issue a sincere apology, honestly.

*

The audacity to ask. The audacity to hope.

I made an amazing meal last night, central feature: the bangin Spanish rice. But I can’t take all the credit, the fresh, organic ingredients added crucial flava. A homemade meal is but a reflection of all that goes into it. The ingredients, the love, the music playing in the background while the cook dances with fridge, sink, counter, stove in the kitchen glow light.

Let’s say Barack Obama does become president of the United States of America. And let’s picture that win as a beautiful, steaming, home-cooked meal. What ingredients is he putting into that meal? Do I taste inclusion for many at the expense of a few? Is this meal truly different from what we’ve been feeding on for the past few decades?

I’d like to believe, as “FA” does, that Obama has shared interests at heart with Muslim people. But it’s simply too early to predict what will actually go down when and if we reach game time. Right now Obama’s “tightened image” campaign is a thorn, a weak link in an otherwise strong campaign.

Obama once referred to America as the “leader of the free world.” As a global leader, what grave hope is he asking of the embattled Muslim diaspora by shunning them now?

And could he ever shun the Muslim diaspora enough to win the Florida vote? Maybe.

The audacity to ask. The audacity to hope.

Stay tuned for more,

Roopa Singh

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3 thoughts on “on obama and muslims: what desi artists are saying

  1. Kalpesh says:

    The more I read your blog, the more I feel that you are still quite ambivalent about BO. I suppose you’ll vote for him anyways (if the other option is McCain as the President), but I sense a good bit of disappoint with BO in your posts. Am I right, or just missing something?

  2. Peter says:

    I dunno if I buy that photo. Can’t tell who is in front. Bet that anyone who gave mad ca-chings to add to the war chest (the irony of the name) gets a front row seat regardless.
    Usually the back rows are for stoners, rowdy fans and people who just wanted to get the f out of the house. So don’t judge those two, they might be brawlers yo. I ain’t gonna stereotype no one; they might be handin out fat lips to opposing fans.

  3. Peter says:

    Oh and yea thats why I bought a place. Brooklyn needs to stop jockin itself; it’s embarrassin, yo! What just because we got an Ikea now, we should pay more? I’m spillin more coins for milk as it is…

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