An open letter to President Obama

Common people in the US, the Middle East and around the globe are “sick of wars, death and destruction”, writes Jarrah.

Barack Obama
"Insisting on a military solution for the Iranian nuclear problem is a ticking time bomb that potentially will ignite the world into a Third World War," author tells US President Barack Obama in a letter [AP]

Dear Mr President,

In 2009, only 10 months after being elected to the highest office in the most powerful nation in the international society of states, you were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, not because of your accomplishments, but because of the hopes for peace that your election instilled in the hearts of people around the globe.

Your election brought out our common dreams and hopes: that everyday people, not special interests, would have a voice; that social justice and equality matter; and that the US will once again stand up for human justice and the rule of law. These were the promises you made on the campaign trail.

So Mr President, as you prepare to debate Mitt Romney on US foreign policy, we will be watching closely. What are you planning to do to ensure peace in the Middle East? Where do you stand on the continuous saber-rattling between Israel and Iran?

The previous US administration initiated wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan to avenge the terrorist attacks on September 11. After all these years of armed intervention, what did we achieve other than the loss of over 6,000 American soldiers, the deaths of over one million Iraqis, an unknown number of dead Afghan civilian, and the destruction and devastationof Iraq and Afghanistan? 

The billions of dollars spent on the war machine could have been put to much better use, to fight hunger, poverty, illiteracy, diseases, global warming and natural disasters around the world.

As a Muslim woman born to Palestinian parents 63 years ago, I have witnessed the devastation and shattering of hope for a peaceful co-existence among people of the same region through wars, greed and an endless quarrel over the resources.

In an effort to monopolise power and weapons to destroy the “other”, nothing has been achieved other than hatred and animosity among the people living on such a small spot of land. Arabs and Israelis have become even more alienated from each other and the animosity and hatred is skyrocketing.

Isn’t it time to change the failed policies of promoting and inciting war? Isn’t it time to change the failed tactics and use your status as the greatest power on earth to seed peaceful diplomacy and negotiations rather than aggressive and arrogant saber-rattling?

Why can’t nations do what we women and men in Dallas, Texas, are doing? In spite of sorrow and anger, our non-Muslim brothers and sisters invited our community to engage in dialogue and discussions. Non-Muslim women offered to accompany Muslim women to grocery stores and malls to protect us from hecklers. The Muslim community reciprocated by answering questions about our faith and beliefs. This has led to strong friendships and joint projects by faith communities to address society’s engrained problems.

Inspired by the effectiveness of women’s and faith-based organisations and supported by mainstream organisations such as the Dallas Women’s Foundation, Muslim women from 22 countries and 29 careers launched the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation (TMWF) in 2005 to give a voice to an unknown sector of society. 

After seven years, we’ve come a long way toward accomplishing what these pioneering women set out to prove. We’ve done it by working hand in hand to peacefully mobilise all members of our community – men, women, seniors and youth. 

TMWF is actively demonstrating that American Muslims are a peaceful, ethical and philanthropic community that cares deeply about humanitarian causes, diversity and equality. We have been on the forefront of establishing friendships and understanding through interfaith dialogue with our neighbours from Christians and Jews to Sikhs and Hindus. 

TMWF youth have been our enthusiastic ambassadors volunteering in food pantries, feeding the homeless, working with the Salvation Army and organising toy drives for sick and needy children. 

Our primary programme is Peace in the Home social services, which provides domestic violence training, education and intervention. Our training efforts include an annual domestic violence awareness campaign during Ramadan and workshops for both mainstream service providers and Islamic organisations. We provide counselling for law enforcement and district attorneys to familiarise them with the unique needs of this diverse community. Our agency is the only direct service agency in the nation providing domestic violence training to Imams. As a result of our 2011 workshop, 12 imams signed a zero tolerance declaration within their congregations. 

The tragedy of 9/11 has brought a diverse coalition together to solve the issues that we all face, including poverty, domestic violence, developmental disabilities, mental and emotional disorders, and drug addiction. We have successfully reached out to underserved communities and feel hopeful that our combined efforts will create systemic change.

Please stop playing with fire. Insisting on a military solution for the Iranian nuclear problem is a ticking time bomb that potentially will ignite the world into a Third World War. We the common people here in the US, the Middle East and around the globe are sick of wars, death and destruction.

As Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian astronaut and resident of Plano, Texas, said after her space flight: “Being in orbit you see the earth as tiny ball; and it just strikes you how small the Earth is; and you realise that it is the only home for all of the peoples of the world! We are all neighbours; so can’t we please start acting neighbourly with one another, and stop destroying our only home!”


Hind Jarrah

Hind Jarrah is founder and executive director of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation and an OpEd Project Public Voices fellow at Texas Woman’s University.