Thursday, 6 November 2008

Obama ahoy!

Obama fever has ransacked not just Atlantic shores but global expanses. Everybody's talkin' about the new black brother, knocking on ordinary people's doors a year ago conjuring political support; to now becoming the the world's latest Greek demiGod. Mr Barack Obaaaaaama. Don't worry I'm not just here to have a rant and a rave at every single TV show falling and blubbering at his every image, I've just made a few observations myself that I'd like to share.

Firstly I do not want to, in any way, belittle the sense of enormity this political event would have meant for those who lived through the Civil Rights movement and life before that - The absolute segregation, degradation in life that had to be endured by a people whose only fault was the shade of their skin. To have been roused by the visionary dream of Martin Luther King, imagining a day where equality of treatment and opportunities would have seemed as dreamlike as Hans Christian Anderson's fairytales. No one would underestimate the feeling of achievement that people such as Jesse Jackson would have felt to have seen this day.

However, just as the American idealistic bubble puzzles us once in a while I feel it's doing so once again. This idea that the advent of a Black political role model is an absolute new start for race relations in America is kinda puzzling. I'm thinking Colin Powell. I'm thinking Condeleeza Rice. Yes, not Presidents, but one could say you couldn't get much closer than they did to having their fairshare of the political leadership of America. Thus this idea that this a whole new dawn for African Americans appears more Obama campaign spin than it is reality. If representation
actually had impact then why was it that having the likes of Colin Powell in such high esholons of American politics didn't actually affect the twisted and deep-rooted racism that took place after the atrocity of Hurricane Katrina?Then what real difference can another Black politican really, practically make?

And this is where my problem lies. Democracy at its core places representation as a key value. The idea is that you work towards representation of the people, to be able to create justice and equal rights for them. But isn't this in reality a fallacy? For example, the ongoing plug to get more women into higher political positions - how does this actually affect the attitudes and treatment of women in real society on the ground? Another woman in the House of Commons for example, doesn't really have a bearing on the prejudices, oppression and exploitation of rights many women go through in all walks of life on a grassroots level. Tessa or Ruth sitting in the House of Commons debating anything from childcare to troops in Iraq moreover seems mutually exclusive from the issue of Samantha being prostituted for drugs in Bethnal Green, or Alisha scared for her son's involvement in gangs.

The argument is that representation creates better empathy and understanding of problems. So Obama may understand the feeling of being degraded due to his skin and Tessa might understand the importance of children for a mother - But we're human beings with weaknesses, fallacies, different perceptions of what is good bad, important unimportant. To rely purely on that empathy or possible experience of someone who you feel represents you, is absolutely naive. I wouldn't trust any stranger to look after my kids, why would I want one to use their perceptions and experiences to legislate rules for them?

The Rwandan Government boasts a whopping 56.25% of its Parliamentary seats belonging to women - the current shining world record. So do they have a women's rights record as gleaming to match? Well we know that during the civil war in Rwanda, one of the most widely used weapon was that of rape against women (HRW 1996). A common practice of 'marriage by abduction' which takes place today in Rwanda deems it possible for a man to abduct a woman to marry her and he then holds absolute power over her, despite what she wants, thinks or feels. Developments on tackling such deeprooted exploitation of women in a country with the best female representation in Government in the world, has been minimal.

Islam does not rely on representation as a means of achieving justice. A Khalif (ruler) in Islam is at the service of his people, to rule by Islam and the Shariah. So he does not have the mercy to give ample rights and advantages to a group of people, and take away or forget another. The rights of people are laid out in Islam and he must execute them, otherwise face removal. He has a measure by which people can judge his ruling, the Shariah. Thus just because he is not a woman, doesn't mean he cannot rule over them with justice - Because the law he rules with is that which has been created by the Creator of all women, the Creator who knows the nature and needs of women the best. When Umar ibn Al Khattab, the second khalif of Islam decided to fix the dowry rate it was a laywoman who stood up and accounted him, warning him that he could not restrict something which Allah and his Messenger did not restrict. He immidately agreed with the woman's comment, deeming her right, and that he was wrong. It was therefore Islam which was supreme, not perceptions of what Umar or his assistants felt were right.

Obama symbolises i'm sure the road to recovery, change for the world's superpower who it felt almost overnight became crippled by a plethora of problems. But all I ask is that we all think outside of the lines that are drawn for us. That there is a world beyond democracy and that our vision and mind is not squashed into the box of what politics has come to mean. Because if justice is our goal, then we need to look at the bigger picture and work out how to really achieve it; even if this means rethinking whether the map which we have always used up until now, really does set out the right way.

1 comment:

Saima said...

a very good read suuhana. I missed this pink page. x