I had the opportunity (25th June) to listen to the historic full speech of Barrack Obama on 4th June at the Cairo University. Follow the speech here.
The hearing followed by a discussion was kept at the American Center with a panel lead by Sadaf Aboli the President of NSUI-Mumbai and Mohammed Wajehuddin, Special Correspondent with the Times of India and moderated by Elizabeth Kauffman the Director of the American Center.
The speech by all means is a path breaking one, one which will in times to come serve as a good reminder should memory fail us about the good efforts started by this speech and there be moments of great tension in which all we can think of is applying swords to our throats.
It is only in America I think that such a quick turnaround is possible from a regime just a year ago whose ethos was so contrary to the one being pursued today. Many other parts of the world silently suffer totalitarian indifferent regimes even in so called democratic setups without being able to do much. India can be a prime example in my mind. Whether the complete lies of the Congress about a secular agenda and do gooder of the Muslims or the Shiv Sena’s blatantly to the contrary claims of having done any good for the Marathi manoos or Hindu religion (they cannot defend themselves against fellow Marathi breakaways, forget saving from the Muslims)
During the discussion session I had the following to share:
1) one of the key elements in my opinion was centered around one sentence ” But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors.” It touched upon something which has become characteristic in the Indian context. When did the general public or even organised groups and institutions speak their mind about what they feel about a particular situation or a party.
Yes the speech was historic and inspiring but more than that I see it as a long to-do list and more importantly I see it of relevance in the Indian context.
The binding thread through the speech was sincerity. It is sincerity which builds trust and which enables to be able to engage in mutual activities which heal wounds inflicted over years. And what I had to share with the group present somewhere was guided with my concern with the lack of sincerity in the Indian context about the deep communal divide which still exists within the Muslim and Hindu communities.
2) I shared with Sadaf Aboli my distrust of the so called secular agenda the Congress has followed in the past six decades which in my opinion is clearly psuedo secular and has very unabashedly and shamelessly worked at using the Muslims as a votebank with little regard for uplifting their conditions.
I shared the incidence of the fire at Behrampada as indicative. These are the very pockets, which bring the Congress to power recurringly time after time after time. And the kind of mind bogglingly bad conditions these people live in. One almost gets the impression that they do so out of an enormous love for living such. Because if things had to be improved then between Priya Dutt and Baba Siddique (not to forget the ‘very concerned’ humanitarian Sunil Dutt) and half a dozen other Muslim leaders that they have things would have improved 2 decades back.
It is being able to address these kind of issues which were required before teh Cairo speech and after nothwithstanding whether you were inspired or not.
And I feel more than having academic debates about the semantics and the content of the speech, it is important to use the speech as a good springboard to jump into action whereever it is needed. And the speech was not just about restoring the divide between the American and the Muslim world. In the Indian context there is a lot of work which remains to be done even inspite of the Muslim community being an integral part of the country.