Reflections- Zahra Biloo: Hold President Obama Accountable

Zahra Biloo, Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
Zahra Biloo, Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA

President Obama was elected by a wide coalition of people who came together whether out of fear of repeated Bush policies or from expectations that he would be better able to deliver on his promises from 2008 with a second term.  In 2012 Americans, and an overwhelmingly majority of American Muslims re-elected him with this hope.

I think that his re-election, even with the disappointment that many of us carry from his first term, provides opportunities to change the political landscape and build political power.

My hope is that without the fear, or work of a re-election campaign, President Obama will be able to take a more fair and even-handed approach to civil liberties and foreign policy issues. That includes closing Guantanamo and actually ending our wars abroad.

One of the things that’s been referenced a lot, of the things that he’s done well, is ending the war in Iraq. But we have bases that remain open in Iraq, and that’s just one front. Further, though the number of “combat troops” in Iraq has decreased, the number of mercenaries has increased. There’s also the drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen among others when it comes to problematic approaches to foreign policy. The signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, specifically sections 1021 and 1022, was incredibly frightening. Many likened it to giving the President the same authority we saw abused with the internment of Japanese Americans and said it was more problematic than the Patriot Act. Further, the President’s secret kill lists which have been used to extra judicially target suspects and assassinate US citizens has moved us into a new era where indefinite detention and summary execution are what we target those who we view as suspects with. Due process seems a thing of the past.

It is going to be important for his supporters, but also all Americans, to hold him accountable to the promises that he made on these issues in 2008 but was unable to deliver on for a variety of reasons.We can hold President Obama and his administration responsible by first, realizing that the organizing and activism around politics and policy issues starts now.  Just because the election is over doesn’t mean we relax and still get what we want from the administration. The opposite is true in fact, we are less likely to get what we want from the administration, what we believe to be in this country’s best interests, if we sit back and relax.

As a community we can effectively apply pressure, as was evidenced by the countless defeats of Islamophobic legislators across the country, but how do we wield our political clout?

We need to focus in on a shortlist of policy goals that the various community organizations, activists, artists, bloggers, Imams and congregations can create local and national coalitions around. These coalitions can work toward achieving those goals by lobbying and applying pressure on elected officials thereby holding President Obama and his administration accountable. More than anything however, we need to effectively mobilize our own grassroots to take their concerns and ideas beyond Facebook and Twitter and to join our staff. In the end, our policy makers represent us both when it comes to what we do and don’t do.

Read other perspectives here.

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