FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama and the Pesky Muslim Rumors

Smear: Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Sen. Obama in his justifiable quest to correct the record, so unfairly distorted by viral emails and insidious propaganda, has launched a website titled ‘Fight the Smears.’ He is well within his rights to vehemently deny that he is a Muslim, when in reality he has always been a Christian.

But is it acceptable to insinuate that being Muslim is a ‘smear’? That is a question Muslims, many of whom are Obamaniacs, are asking.

What if Obama was a Muslim? Would it make his message less hopeful? Will it make his personality less charming? Will it make his candidacy less viable?

A recently released report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, titled ‘U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,’ shows 70 percent of Americans affiliated with a religion or denomination said they agreed that ‘many religions can lead to eternal life’- a sign of progression towards a more inclusive and pluralistic society. And yet despite this progress, a Presidential candidate is being forced to go to unprecedented lengths to counter smears.

Last week New York Mayor Bloomberg speaking in front of a Jewish audience in South Florida stated that the deceptive campaign against Obama, ‘threatens to undo the enormous strides that Jews and Muslims have made together in this country.’ He went on to say, ‘This is wedge politics at its worst, and we’ve got to reject it – loudly, clearly and unequivocally.’ Despite the Mayor’s commendable efforts, one audience member was reported in the New York Times to say, ‘I still have doubts about him (Obama).’

Rumors often stick, which is why rumor mongering persists. Rumors are particularly lethal when they are easy to remember (Obama’s middle name is Hussein thus it is easy to insinuate his alleged Muslim links) and they exploit emotive stereotypes (Muslims are out to destroy America). Simply dispelling the rumor without addressing the stereotype that makes such rumors stick is like treating the symptom without isolating the cause.

Thus, potential for blowbacks continue to fester. Given that Obama has not vigorously challenged the inherent bigotry behind the ‘Muslim’ rumors, some of his supporters got the errant message that any association between Obama and Muslims is potentially damaging to his candidacy. At a rally in Detroit last week, volunteers from the Obama campaign, citing ‘a sensitive political climate,’ prohibited two head scarf donning Muslim women from sitting too close to the stage lest they be visible in photo and video footage. Obama, to his credit, later apologized to the women and his campaign put out a message that the volunteers were not carrying out any campaign policy.

Over the past couple of months, I have been lecturing across America to Muslim audiences about civic and political engagement. Over the course of my trips I found that American Muslims in general recognize the historicity of the moment and are genuinely excited about the upcoming election. However, they are appalled at their faith being exploited for political gains.

Most Muslims were dismayed by Obama’s clumsy denials. Many more were offended by his support for an undivided Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. Yet they are willing to look past them, partly because they perceive the alternative to be worse. They believe that Obama will restore lost civil liberties, is less likely to start a war and instinctively favors diplomatic resolutions to contentious foreign policy issues.

The second camp thinks that Obama will be so bloodied by the time he takes office that to prove his toughness he may swing to the right of Bush. They cite his comments that he may unilaterally send U.S. armed forces into Pakistan if he had actionable intelligence, as a grave concern. This group though small is prepared to sit out this election if their concerns remain unaddressed.

A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that while Muslims remain a small minority in the overall electorate, they are however likely to play a decisive role in the swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Obama ought to reach out to the Muslim community much in the same way he has reached out to Evangelicals and Jews. His claims of a holistic attitude towards all faith groups require consistency in engaging all groups.

Obama needs to not only continue assuring people that he is not a Muslim but also challenge the collective conscience of this nation to not let their fears undo the progress we have been making towards racial and religious tolerance. His ultimate legacy will not only be judged by becoming the first person of color to be elected President but more importantly what he does after he is elected.
Obama’s vision of ‘One America’ needs to be more than mere rhetoric.

PARVEZ AHMED teaches at the University of North Florida. He is also chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He can be reached at pahmed@unf.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail