The Power of Inclusiveness by Habon Abdulle
By Habon Abdulle,
I have never heard the adjective ‘minorities’ (Asian, African-American, Latinos and women) associated with politics as much as in the last week. The media outlets were incredulous that the minority vote decided the outcome of the election. The closest analogy that I can come up is when a diagnostic test of a terminal patient, comes back negative and doctors call the recovery a miracle.
On Tuesday night pundits and political newscasters were using the same language. They were all justifying their undermining of the will of the progressive movement; a will that before Tuesday night was given a death sentence. These political journalists miscalculated the human factor that teaches us that when people reach a point of definite decision they react in mass and forge changes. Instead they were still using the same dismissive rhetoric when addressing the potential of the new progressive movement. They were perpetuating a society where minorities are defined by number and ranking devoid of power and importance. They were wrong to think so. In addition, in their last analysis, they undermined an important group.
Along with the minorities in Tuesday’s long line polls were white men who also voted to end the divisive rhetoric that has been woven into America’s social fabric. While we will never know how many of them were self-proclaimed conservatives; they deserve recognition. They are part of the rising coalition movement that came together November 6th to revive the greatness of America. This is why America has been the country of choice for millions of immigrants for centuries. America, land of the free, is known for the power of the common individual.
November 6th 2012 was not only a response to those who bet on the progressive Americans but a reminder of the essence of the United States of America. That Tuesday, the majority of Americans expressed their contempt about any type of bias and voted for inclusiveness. As President Barack Obama stated in his victory speech “What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth”.
On a personal note, this country gave me the opportunity to experience the citizenry’s right to vote and for the first time in my life, I voted and I mattered in the outcome. This finally was my response to a bigot person that once told me that my views and concerns were irrelevant because I am a woman, black and Muslim. What he meant was that my multifaceted identities, all of them affiliated with minority groups, would not give me the platform to express my concerns and get the deserved response. Minority’s desire of citizenship that goes beyond the traditional duality of obligations and rights as citizens has been reflected in the election of 2012.
What can the Somali diaspora learn from the election both as new Americans and as transnational agents?
The Somali community can learn about both the value and process of participation. Being a new American includes becoming a full member of the political community (and voting!) and as such becoming more of a mainstream Minnesotan.
As a diaspora community we need to remember that electoral participation is a central tenet of a representative democracy. It is important for immigrants, as a part of their integration, to include themselves in the political dimension. The employment of political voice is central to the idea of democracy. Through electoral politics, people convey information about their preferences and needs and compel public officials to respond to their needs. Citizenship expresses a notion that recapitulates the relationship between the individual, nation and community.
There then is a realization that being a mainstream Minnesotan really means being a part of a very diverse community. Instead of singling out a particular gender, race, class or religion; a community’s wellbeing is based on the success of all its citizens as our lives are inextricably linked. New Americans need to foster this diversity and expand the positive factors that can be used to hold the larger community together. We have to be firm in the elimination of any rivalry over which is the most needy minority community. We must overcome the mindset that we are a diaspora community that is living in a host country and start to fully invest in our adopted community.
As new Americans we need to change the dominant negative narrative that has been attached to Somali community. Popular culture and media are the most powerful contributors to erroneous and dangerous characterizations of Somali communities and Islam. This can be pushed back with correct information and deeper understanding. People need to be given information that goes beyond our religion’s prohibitions, restrictions and that highlights the spiritual component of Islam principles and responsibility values toward their community.
This responsibility needs to be demonstrated with actions rather than with mere intention. While intention is extremely important, it must be shared. We need to involve ourselves in relationships and activities beyond our immediate community so we will impact others’ thinking. We must respect other views, cultures and religions while at the same way we demand respect for ours. From the Holly Qur'an we learn that there is no coercion in religion:
There is no compulsion in matters of Faith. Distinct now is the way of guidance from error. He [sic] who turns away from the forces of evil and believes in God, will surely hold fast to a handle that is strong and unbreakable, for God hears all and knows everything (Qur'an 2:256).
As transnational agents, the Somali diaspora must exercise democratic socialization via transnational influences. The same way the diaspora communities engaged in the peace building process, they can play an important role in the democratization of Somalia. The attempt will not be easy, but worth a try. Diaspora communities have been accused of being too idealistic and detached from the local reality. I believe that, from the perspectives of the many well-intentioned diaspora subjects, the attitude is not aloofness or superiority but rather eagerness to share the democratic values and economic development that is thriving in democratic countries. They have now experienced the two main criteria for a democracy: first that the representatives exercising power have legitimate authority because they have been elected by everyone, as opposed to limited people, and second that the system for changing the government is through peaceful and regular elections, and not with civil war.
The diaspora message needs to be better articulated and shared without judgment. We have to recognize the fact that to function properly, democracy requires trust and a well-informed populace. Building trust and positive values that encourages cooperation is therefore important. The diaspora’s primary focus must be to establish a platform from which to protect the Somali minorities’ (both gender and clan/ethnic) human and political rights and seek equality for all Somalis. This platform needs to emphasize inclusiveness, promote the importance of coalition and allow minorities and progressive subjects to become the new majority of Somalia just as has been done in America.