More than a sesquicentennial after the end of the US civil war and the abolition of slavery, finally a candidate with an ethnicity other than that of the European peoples has emerged in the person of Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black aristocrat from Kenya, and who is not at all bashful of such a mixed ancestry.
This is in apparent contrast to the likely Republican front-runner, who has thus far been careful to keep away from sight any view of the lovely Bangladeshi girl he and his wife adopted many years ago. The adoption was a beautiful act, one fully in the traditions of Jesus Christ, and given additional poignancy by the reality that the little charmer would likely have perished had she not been adopted, but judging by the way his non-white daughter has thus far disappeared from view, this does not seem to be the view of the Senator, who prefers to parade his blonde wife and his fair-haired daughters rather than the former Bangladeshi.
The reality of support that Barack Obama (who is about the same colour as most of the inhabitants of Bethlehem) has secured in so many lily-white states such as Iowa and Idaho shows McCain'sfears of a white backlash against the adoption to be groundless. The people of the US are far more liberal and tolerant than those from Europe, even though it is the latter that usually preaches about ?human values? and ?human rights? even as a titanium curtain gets pulled between Europe and the non-white world. Just as no true follower of Christ would condone slavery, neither would she or he accept a separation of the human race on the basis of ethnicity.
It is telling that thus far, there has only been a single Black American US Senator from the Republican Party, and certainly no presidential candidate. Taking the Republican field, there is a marked contrast between the younger, more focussed, Mitt Romney and John McCain, who shows short fuse on several occasions, together with his patronising view of Iraq, a location where he would like US troops to stay ?for a hundred years? the way the British did in India. However, Romney has almost no chance against his much older, more Washington-jaded opponent, because he belongs to the Mormon faith, a branch of Christianity that is regarded as non-Christian and even anti-Christian by several individuals, especially in the southern part of the US.
Thus, although McCain has little appeal among the Republican faithful, he is likely to be the nominee, largely because of the faith of his principal opponent. Sadly for Mitt Romney, the Republican base does not seem to have moved away from old prejudices, the way the Democratic Party clearly has. This analyst saw Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cancelling each other out, leaving the field clear for John Edwards, the single white male candidate of the top three within the party. Instead, both gender as well as race prejudice have been trumped by substantive issues, and it is Obama and Clinton who saw off the Edwards candidacy. If either gets elected, it would create history, being the first time that a woman or a black becomes the US President. After his extraordinary luck in having a Mormon as his intra-party opponent, Senator McCain will have either a woman or a black opposing him, and could thus garner millions of votes as a result. Several within the US are as yet unable to accept either category as being a suitable occupant of the Oval Office, and they may turn to John McCain as the only alternative. Hopefully, this prophesy too will go wrong, and either Obama or Clinton move into the White House. Gerhard Schroeder was the last elected head of government in Europe to remain wedded to a fully secular approach to politics.
Since World War II, western societies have sought to secularise thewselves, welcoming those of other faiths. A large number of Hindu temples comes up each year in the US and the UK, although not in Continental Europe, where ?secularism? is often practiced in a way that emphasises the predominance of a single faith. In ?secular? France and Turkey, for instance, headscarves are banned, the way they are compulsory in Iran. While some practices in many faiths may eat into the rights of others and therefore need to be regulated if not halted, the wearing of a headscarf is not one of them. Those wishing to wear them, or any other garb, ought to be allowed to do so, the way they are in India or the US.
Today, whether it is France, Denmark or Germany, each candidate has to repeatedly mention her or his fealty to the Christian faith to be electable.
Even in the UK, a country known for its robust commonsense, three-term prime minister Anthony Blair wore his faith on his lapel, the way George W. Bush does. In the US, apart from the Republican candidates, both Obama as well as Hillary Clinton have repeatedly emphasised their religious orientation, visiting churches often and declaring their passion for a faith that had its origins in the abolition of ritual and pomp. Small wonder that these days, a lot of hate mail gets directed at Hindu temples and Sikh gurudwaras in the US and?less so?in the UK.
This ?Christian Assertion? seems to have come up as a reaction to the excesses of Wahabbism and Khomeinism. In countries that practice either of these two creeds, those belonging to other faiths are denied the basic human right of equality. Any other Wahabbi places of worship are banned, for example, in Saudi Arabia, while in Iran, the veil and the scarf are compulsory, as are other ways of behaviour that are at variance with a humane society. Partly as a result of the Wahabbit-Khomeinist assertion seen since the start of the Afghan jihad towards the end of the 1970s, a newfound affinity to the ritual and declarations of faith seem to have spread across the western world. Hopefully, in time, all these manifestations will recede, leaving behind the reality of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The Pope of Rome may be from India, and an African-American may become the President of the United States. Those living in a country with liberal traditions, such as India, can only hope that such a time will come, and not endlessly into the future.