By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
Whatever goes up must come down, but this general law is of no comfort to the man who broke new ground not too long ago and became the first Black man to occupy the White House. Swept by a wave of Islamphobia, and capitalizing on rhetoric that has not been heard before in the United States of America, the Republicans have gained the control of the House of Representatives and a fistful of Senate seats in the midterm US elections, inflicting the worst Democratic defeat in recent history. By all accounts, the Republican comeback from the political wilderness in the wake of Obama’s 2008 presidential victory is indicative of a deep-seated failure of Obama’s message of hope. He led everyone to believe that he is ushering in a new era; instead, he left behind a trail of broken promises, which alienated his friends and foes.
The tragedy of this melodrama is that the man at the center may not even acknowledge that the results of the midterm elections have a direct relationship with a new level of despair and feeling of being doomed that most Americans feel in the wake of Obama’s failure. The political equilibrium has swung to the rightwing Tea Party movement, not because it has something better to offer, but because at all such times, nations always swing toward those who promise security, even though that promise is false.
Even as Democrats still control the Senate, the loss of the House, the departure of Nancy Pelosi–its first female Speaker–and the arrival of the Republican John Boehner means that the Republicans will now be able to use their position of power to wage a tough war against Obama in the remaining two years of his presidency and that the United States of America will not be so united for the next 24 months as rancorous partisan bickering may lead to undoing of what Obama has so far achieved, even though that is meager.
Especially important is the healthcare reforms, which many Republican candidates vowed to stop. Speaking from a position of power, Boehner sent a clear message to Mr. Obama: “The people have sent an unmistakable message to the president – and that is change course. [To] the extent he is willing to do that, we will work with him.” He told supporters at a Washington hotel: “Our new majority will be prepared to do things differently.”
Of course not many in America are worried about the foreign policy of their country or about the horrendous crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan as Wikileaks has proven; the Exit Polls indicate that 80% are worried about economy. This has always been the case in the US politics, but never before a rightwing party (like the Tea Party), which did not even exist less than two years ago, has benefited from this pulsating anguish and anger; the midterm elections changed that in US politics. Many Tea Party-endorsed politicians, who have been swept into positions of influence, will further strength this rebel movement.
This Tea Party tidal wave, which brought people like Rand Paul to the US Senate, will also give evangelical advocates greater share of US politics, as Paul will be a spokesman for the movement in the Senate. He will be joined there by another Tea Party favorite, Marco Rubio, who won in Florida. This dangerous new voice in the US politics is also indicative of the rise of extremism that has always existed in US.
As Obama sets off on a 10-day visit to Asia, which does not include Pakistan, he may want to reflect on the changed scenario he faces upon his return. And this reflection may lead him to recognize that behind his fall is a certain lack of sincerity and the fear of the unknown forces from which he has always suffered. Had he been sincere to his agenda of change, had he not broken many promises, he may still have lost some seats, but perhaps he would not have been abandoned by his friends as he is now.
The desire for change is ever-green in America, but the pace of change has increased so much in recent years that it indicates some deep rifts in the system which have been produced by consistent failures of the US political leadership. The US foreign policy needs a U-turn; domestically, a growing class of poor and disempowered have nothing bright on the horizon and this leads to deep fractures. But to open their eyes, the US politicians from both side of the divide need something much greater than a political victory or defeat and it is hard to see how this will come about in the near future.
As for as the rest of the world is concerned, the US midterm elections will not change much: both the Republicans and the Democrats pursue the same foreign policy and both have similar agenda for the world: a US-dominated world in which everyone is divided into good and bad guys. The bad guys must be eliminated and the good guys are given candy. This Reganomics has defined the US foreign policy for decades and there is no sign of any change in this America-centric myopic vision of a world in which many nations are gaining a new understanding of their predicament and even though a large part of the world still remains in economic and political slavery, there are many nations in Asia and South America which now refuse to accept the US dictation. This process is bound to produce new realities in a changed world where dignity, basic human dignity, is becoming more valuable than American hamburgers.
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of
Islam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), and then left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to study Islam, its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he pursued his research and study on various aspects of Islam in Pakistan, where he also worked as Director, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) between 1991-96 and as Director, Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1998-99).
During 1999-2001, Dr. Iqbal was Program Director (Muslim World) for the Science-Religion Course Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Berkeley, USA.
Dr. Iqbal has published books and papers on the relationship between Islam and science, Islam and the West, the contemporary situation of Muslims, and the history of Islamic science.
His publications include Islam and Science, God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives , Science and Islam, Dawn in Madinah: A Pilgrim’s Passage , The Making of Islamic Science (IBT, 2009) and a few more titles.
He is the General Editor of the forthcoming seven-volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, the first English language reference work on the Qur’an based on fourteen centuries of Muslim reflection and scholarship. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.