Monday, 16 August 2010

So close, and yet so very far

I must admit,  when I read yesterday that Barack Obama had spoken out in defence of the  "Ground Zero mosque"  on the basis that freedom of religion was a fundamental right which could not be compromised,  I was pleasantly surprised.  He was finally taking a forthright,  courageous and thoroughly admirable stance on an issue which goes right to the heart of America's values.  And,  regrettably,  it was somewhat out of character for him to do so.

So when I read a few minutes ago that he's  "clarified"  his position,  I was not surprised,  but very disappointed.  It looks rather as though he hadn't realised quite how courageous his remarks were,  was shocked to see the amount of protest they provoked,  and backtracked in fright.  He's now claiming that he meant people should have the freedom to build mosques in principle,  but not necessarily in practice.  He had the opportunity to take the moral high ground,  to take a firm stand on the fundamental issue of religious freedom,  and oppose the ugly and unhealthy opposing current which,  it seems,  is going to culminate in a mass burning of Korans on September 11  -  which unhappily this year will probably coincide with the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations at the end of Ramadan.

There is a dangerous maelstrom of religious conflict building in the USA right now,  and instead of holding to an inspiring position of strong leadership to guide the country out of it,  Obama is now responding in his typically spineless way of following the path of least resistance,  trying to do whatever the polls seem to suggest will be least offensive.  This behaviour is bad for America,  it's bad for the world,  and ultimately it will be bad for him too:  it shows him to be a weak,  ineffectual leader.  It will not help him in November this year,  and it will destroy him in 2012.