Muslims At Arm's Length
By Derrick Z.
BOSTON (Boston Globe) June 27, 2008 –
I WISH Barack Obama were a Muslim. Better that than having supercilious
staffers whisk women in Islamic head scarves out of photo-ops. Better that than
telling Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the nation's first Muslim
congressman, not to come help Obama in Iowa and North Carolina.
Better that than wooing red
states by wobbling before the modern equivalent of the Red Scare. In his
year-and-a-half-long run for president, Obama has visited churches and
synagogues, but no mosque. This has the musty feel of light-skinned African-Americans
passing for white, paranoid over daylight visits from dark-skinned relatives.
Obama's campaign has been far
more inclusive than John McCain's. Yet as of late, Obama's handlers are so bent
on passing their biracial, binationally-raised man as a pure-blooded American -
a new commercial plays up his "values straight from the Kansas
heartland" - that they are reinforcing the perception that Muslim
Americans are impure.
Asked what he would say to
Obama if he had the chance, Bilal Kaleem, executive director of the Boston
chapter of the Muslim American Society, said, "It's a tough question, and
it's sad that it's a tough question. . . . I would suggest that he might have
to do the same thing [on Islam] that he did on race. He addressed it head-on in
a landmark speech. He gave his speech in a mature way. If he could speak in the
same way to that, it could be inspiring for our country and the world."
It is understandable why Barack
Hussein Obama and his handlers suffer from PTSD - post-traumatic smear disorder.
Political woodpeckers hammer falsehoods from the right. Fellow Democrat Hillary
Clinton, when asked whether Obama is a Muslim, tackily peeped, "there is
nothing to base that on, as far as I know." Despite nearly hitting the
third rail over his former Christian pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, only 58
percent of Americans think Obama is a Christian, according to a Newsweek poll
It has been so outrageous that
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, an independent and a Jewish American, said
the "whisper campaign" was "wedge politics at its worst."
Kaleem said of Obama, "We feel sympathy for him because it's not just him
who should be called out; it is also the people in the media and politics who
made a cottage industry out of him being a wolf in sheep's clothing and that
all Muslims are subversive."
But the sympathy may be
short-lived as Obama's "Fight the Smears" part of his website has
some Muslims feeling betrayed by an over-the-top effort to denounce every
Obama-is-a-Muslim claim as a "lie" and saying, "Senator Obama
has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed
Christian." How about something like, "Senator Obama is a Christian
who, having lived in the world's largest Muslim country [Indonesia], having
traveled in Pakistan and having many Muslim friends, appreciates American
pluralism like no other candidate in US history"?
A more positive approach by
Obama of affirming Muslims while affirming his Christianity actually fits the
nation's values. A new Pew Research survey finds Americans more open than ever
to a range of religious viewpoints. Muslim Americans themselves, according to a
2007 Pew survey, are "largely assimilated, happy with their lives,"
and "decidedly American in their outlook, values, and attitudes."
This obviously all came
together for Ellison's election, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has noted that
his district has more Lutherans than Muslims. Ellison this week told The New
York Times about Obama, "A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there's
nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way."
A lot of Muslims are waiting
because, seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an undercurrent of
suspicion remains. In the 2007 Pew survey, a third of Muslim Americans said
that within the last year, they had either been treated with suspicion, called
offensive names, profiled by police, or even attacked. Kaleem, a graduate of
MIT, said he sometimes is asked during grant proposals how radical his group
"In a way," Kaleem
said, "it is good that these missteps have come out in public so we can
start talking about the undercurrent, which is the real issue."
Obama himself has said
"Christians and people of other faiths lived very comfortably" with
each other when he lived in Indonesia. It is time for him to live comfortably
with Muslims in his campaign.
In a 2006 trip to Chad, Obama
issued the Muslim greeting for peace. A wise Obama would say "assalamu
alaikum" at home, too.
Muslims Would Not Have
Cause to Feel 'Snubbed' by Obama Campaign if…
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