Settled in US, Frank Islam, from Azamgarh, India, is community worker, entrepreneur, educationist, philanthropist and civic leader, heads the FI Investment Group. Appointed as the General Trustee of the Board of Trustees of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by US President Barack Obama, he has also served the US Institute of Peace, Woodrow Wilson Center and Brookings Institution, apart from various panels and councils at the US’ prime universities. An interview with Islam by Firoz Bakht Khan*:
Q: Some 25 years ago, Muslims and Islam were not under scanner but why are they suspected everywhere in spite of the fact that Islam is a religion of submission?
Unfortunately, the world view today of Muslims and Islam is not formed by the nature of our religion. It is shaped by fringe terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda who have stolen the religious mantle and committed terrible deeds in its name. This is a sad situation which distorts and contaminates the perception of a religion and casts a long shadow over all of us who are humble and peaceful practitioners of this religion
Q: The American political system too is patriarchal, so where do you see Hillary’s chances as a potential President?
First, the American political system is a democratic republic. By characterizing it as patriarchal, I assume that you mean that most office holders and people in positions of power are male. That is accurate. But, things have changed significantly in the past quarter of a century. For example, there have been 46 U.S. female U.S senators since that body was established. Twenty of them are serving currently – 14 Democrats and 6 Republicans.
As for Secretary Clinton’s chances as a presidential candidate, in my opinion, she will win or lose not because she is female but because of her qualifications.
The Republicans have tended to get the white male vote with both Obama and Kerry getting only around 40% or so. I believe that is about what Secretary Clinton will receive as well. I firmly believe that she will be the next President of United States.
Q: Which American President do you assess to be best in terms of world’s acceptability?
I assume you mean candidate for President. If that is correct, there is no question that it is Secretary Clinton hands down over Donald Trump. As President Obama said recently at the G-7 meeting, Trump “rattles” world leaders. If you mean which Presidents were or are held generally in high regard, I’d put on that list President Obama, President Clinton, President George H.W. Bush, and President John F. Kennedy.
Q: Is Donald Trump justified in hating Muslims?
Donald Trump would be the first to tell you that he does not hate Muslims and would probably add that some of his best friends are Muslims. Nonetheless, he makes statements that vilify Muslims and other minority groups. This is a harmful practice and builds wall between religions and parts of the world at a time when we desperately need to build bridges.
Mr. Trump is entitled to his own opinion and in a free country has the right to express it. That does not make the opinion right or worth dignifying with any further comment.
Q: What are your views on the cliché: “All the Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”?
As with all clichés, it is overused and in this case absolutely inaccurate. I believe that no terrorist has religion. If he would, he won’t be a terrorist! Terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds. Muslims have been singled out with this characterization because of the vendetta being carried out by a small number of radicals who because of their vicious and venal acts in places around the world have a powerful influence on the perceptions of some in the public.
Q: What’s the most practicable way of washing away the terror tag as far as Muslims are concerned?
There is no easy answer to that. The truth is that is impossible to “wash away the terror tag” but it can definitely be changed. Two critical ingredients for accomplishing this are: (1) Muslim leaders standing in unity and speaking in a single voice to condemn those who engage in terrorist acts. (2) National leaders of stature regardless of nation state, political party or religious belief speaking out in defense of the more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and proclaiming that this extremely small minority “splinter” group of terrorists does not represent Muslims or their religion in any way.
The third way is for the coalition of the 34 nations that was formed as the Islamic Alliance at the end of last year to combat terrorism to become more forceful in its action in the Middle East. I have read press reports on this group and its members but have not read anything to date on its specific involvement in military type interventions.
*Columnist, educationist, chairman of Friends for Education, and grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad