January 21, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9148

Iraqi Writer Commends President Biden's Appointment Of Muslims To Key White House Positions

January 21, 2021
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 9148

In an article in the Iraqi daily Al-Zaman, writer Shamel Bardan commended U.S. President-elect Joe Biden for appointing two women of Arab origin to prominent positions on the White House staff. Bardan praised the pluralistic U.S. culture, which judges its members according to their skills, not according to their culture or race, and does not fear their otherness. He contrasted this with the situation in Iraq, where officials like to quote a saying attributed to the fourth caliph 'Ali ibn Abi Talib implying that all men are equal, but actually harbor sectarian and religious bias and are more interested in robbing the state coffers than in serving the public.

Shamel Bardan (Source: Al-Zaman, Iraq)

The following are translated excerpts from Bardan's article:[1]

"Dana Shubat, of Jordanian origin, has joined the White House [staff] and will work for the administration of Joe Biden, America's new Democratic president. She joins Reema Dodin, of Palestinian origin, [who has likewise joined the White House staff]. Biden and his staffers were interested only in the qualifications of these women and in the fact that they are U.S. citizens. Their [Arab] ethnicity was no obstacle [to their appointment], and Biden did not envision any clash between their Arab culture and the American culture. Dodin's love for her people did not alarm the U.S. intelligence apparatus, or cause it to doubt her ability to serve [in the White House] or to fear that she would suddenly become a terrorist. Nor did it fear that Shubat harbors a secret yearning for the Bedouin lifestyle which might be evident in her conduct at the White House.

"Such is the national [culture] of America, of which many Iraqis are citizens. Some [American Iraqis] have even attained positions in the government of Iraq. They did not retain the [Iraqi] national principles in handling the people's interests, [but] they also failed to export the positive things they had learned in their second homeland [the U.S.]. One minister in the government of [former Iraqi prime minister Nouri] Al-Maliki… used to ask people applying for a position in his office: 'Who is better? A person who comes from [cosmopolitan] Baghdad, or one who comes from [conservative Shi'ite] Karbala?

"It is not my intention here to assess Biden's [character] or present him as a model of perfection. But it is very saddening that we [Arabs] usually constitute a model of inferiority. The world has settled on a policy of serving [the public], while the group [that runs our country] has settled on shattering all patriotic values, and aims [only] to rob [the public coffers].

"Even today, in government offices, in intellectual [circles] and even on the street, people say, 'this is a Sunni, this is a Christian and this is a Kurd' - not just as distinguishing labels, but out of racism, which nourishes most of the Iraqi party leaders who have spilled our blood and robbed our resources. Whenever they want to [tout] impressive precedents in the sphere of human rights, some of them cite the words spoken by 'Ali [bin Abi Talib] to [Malik] Al-Ashtar:[2] 'There are two kinds of people, your brothers in religion, and those who are your equals in humanity.' [President-elect] Biden [actually] follows this saying, whereas [our] public does not."   


[1] Al-Zaman (Iraq), November 23, 2020.

[2] 'Ali bin Abi Talib (599-661), the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was the fourth Muslim caliph, regarded by Sunni Muslims as the last of the four "Righteous Caliphs" and by Shi'ites as the Prophet's immediate successor and the first Imam. Malik Al-Ashtar was a cousin and close associate of 'Ali.  




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