In the last several weeks, you may have heard or read those emails claiming that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Although for most people, the truth has been set straight that Barack Obama is not a Muslim, the larger point often is missed, and like most points that are missed, it is the more important one. To me, the fundamental question is not whether Obama is Muslim, but whether it should even matter to the American public that he is Muslim?
I’m sure some of the reasonable people out there are already answering that question with an answer that goes something like this, “Well, it goes to his character. If he said he wasn’t Muslim but a Christian, but he really is a Muslim, you have to ask why he would lie like that? I can’t trust someone like that.”
That’s a perfectly reasonable answer. But I’m sure for the majority of those people who gave that answer, what response would you give if Barack always said he was a Muslim to begin with? The answer would probably boil down to, “I like Barack and his policies but frankly, I just don’t trust the guy. I can’t put a finger on it.”
Political correctness has just given us new codewords. Discrimination is still discrimination though, even by another name.
The media, along with Obama’s supporters, have for the most part taken great strides in “debunking the myth” that Obama is a Muslim. But they haven’t taken the next step, or even the a priori step, of contending why that question is flawed to begin with. In an election of name calling, both Obama and McCain’s attempt to put the “Muslim question” into a nice, little soundbite is not so much an example of weak political will, but the failure of the United States to be truly an inclusive place for all.
It’s that whole idea, somehow, that being called a “Muslim,” or being associated with a “Muslim,” is akin to being on the side of a terrorist. Of course, McCain doesn’t say this directly nor does Obama. They are politicians, after all. Of course, there are people out there — and I’m sure if you have a yahoo or google account, you surely have received these emails — arguing that there is a fundamental connection between Islam and terrorism, and that anyone who is a Muslim must be a terrorist by default.
The question I ask is whether McCain and Obama’s actions have essentially extended this same message? For McCain’s part, he doesn’t do enough to quell the members of the right who are constantly trying to paint Obama as a terrorist, with suggestions that he is, in fact, a Muslim. McCain and Palin, for their part, discuss in the most ominous of ways, Obama’s “past” catching up to him and why no one should trust him. For Obama’s part, he doesn’t do enough to raise the question to his constituents of why it is irrelevant what his religion is in determining whether he is “patriotic” enough to be president. In the end, for both candidates, their claims that the U.S. is an inclusive country just rings hollow.
After all, have you seen any of these candidates visiting a Mosque? I haven’t. I’m sure none of these candidates would want to be caught dead within 500 miles of one.
Change we can believe in? For whom?