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Muqtedar Khan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Adrian College in
Michigan. He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations, Political Philosophy, and
Islamic Political Thought, from Georgetown University in May 2000.
Dr. Khan's column has
appeared in The Daily Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, Detroit
News, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Muslim Democrat,
Iviews.com,ptimes.com, Theglobalist.com, Freerepublic.com, MiddleEast Online,
Beliefnet.com, Arabies Trends, Al-Mustaqbal, and many other periodicals world wide.
For a comprehensive resume click here: Resume
Arab-Americans lose faith
Dr. Muqtedar Khan
Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on May 21, 2001.
An Arabic version was published in Al-Mustaqbal (Gulf Edition)
on May 24th, 2001.
ADRIAN, Mich. -- There were several reasons
why American Muslims voted for George W. Bush in November. Chief among them was the
perception that both Bill Clinton and Al Gore were too heavily invested with the Israeli
lobby to adopt a balanced approach to the Palestinian issue.
American Muslims felt that Mr. Bush would not only assume a more balanced attitude toward
Palestinians but would also reduce the colonization of the peace process by American Jews.
They felt that since all the important foreign policy positions were held by American
Jews, some of whom, like the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, had a long history
of lobbying for Israel, it was impossible to expect Democrats to be evenhanded toward
Palestine. American Muslims believe that American evenhandedness is necessary for a fair
and sustainable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But recent comments made by Mr. Bush to the American Jewish Committee suggest that perhaps
American Muslims' faith in the presiBush declared, "My administration will be
steadfast in supporting Israel against terrorism and violence and in seeking the peace for
which all Israelis pray.
"A top foreign policy priority of my administration is the safety and security of
Israel," he added for good measure.
Such words of assurance by Mr. Bush to American Jews sound very similar to the ones he
uttered to American Muslims. The difference is that promises to Muslims were made before
the election and promises to American Jews are being made after the election. American
Muslims find this Bush posturing very difficult to understand or accept given that 78
percent of American Muslims voted for Mr. Bush whereas less than 20 percent of American
Jews did so.
Mr. Bush has already played host to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israeli
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his aides have made it clear that Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat is not welcome in Washington. Nowadays the White House does not acknowledge
letters written by prominent American Muslim organizations, including those who endorsed
Mr. Bush in his presidential campaign.
Things have changed, but not in the way American Muslims had hoped. The influence of the
Israeli lobby on the White House seems to have diminished. But American Muslims and
Palestinians have lost access to the president. During Mr. Clinton's presidency, American
Muslim organizations were welcome in the White House and Mr. Arafat had accumulated an
enviable amount of frequent flyer miles from his trips to Washington.
American Muslims are not happy with the changes in U.S. Middle East policy, either. The
new role of the United States as a detached facilitator of peace rather than a deeply
engaged negotiator of peace has not paid dividends.
The American hands-off approach has meant that Palestinians have no recourse but to be at
the rises, violence and pain continue unabated. While the administration maintains that
violence in Israel is largely the fault of Palestinians and Mr. Arafat's unwillingness to
stop it, most victims are Palestinian.
Prime Minister Sharon has interpreted the hands-off approach as license to use excessive
violence to break the Palestinian spirit. Tanks and helicopter gun ships are used
routinely. He has also escalated building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
Washington has yet to speak against it.
Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent suggestion to subsidize the rising cost of
Israeli military operations has also shocked American Muslims. Not only was the United
States not demanding a stoppage in military operations, it was actually contemplating
For the United States to be able to play the peace catalyst it must enjoy the trust and
confidence of all parties involved. Mr. Bush has succeeded in losing the trust and
confidence of American Muslims who supported him. They have found that he does not keep
his promises and does not care for Palestinian suffering.
Muqtedar Khan is the director of international studies at Adrian College in Michigan. He
is on the board of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy and the Association of
Muslim Social Scientists.