By Gary Kopycinski
Who are these Americans obsessing over the falsehood that Barack Obama is a Muslim? And how can we remain silent as the right wing continues to twist the word "Muslim" into a pejorative?
In the midst of the last presidential election, I spoke with friends of mine who are Muslim. They were understandably disappointed with the rhetoric of those "accusing" then-Senator Barack Obama of being a Muslim. They were equally disappointed with Barack Obama’s vehement denials. What would they have preferred him say? Something like this: "No, I am not a Muslim, but Islam is a beautiful religion, and why should it matter if I was?"
My Muslim friends are right.
That statement, unfortunately, would have been twisted by the right in the campaign. "Obama loves Islam!" or "Obama said it doesn’t matter if he’s Muslim!"
President Obama can either deny he is a Muslim, or sound silly in a Sienfeldian sense, responding instead, "No, I’m not a Muslim! Not that there’s anything wrong with that!"
Candidates today are often between a rock and a hard place.
Today, however, the tail wags the dog again. Just as the right tried to turn the word "Catholic" into a pejorative when John F. Kennedy ran for president, the right is working overtime to do the same with the word "Muslim." We are all aware of the horrors of 9-11-2001, but what happened was not Muslim, any more than the Crusades were Christian acts of love. In any group of human beings, you will find 95% to 99% of the people who are fine to excellent. You will also find as much as 5% who are either psychopaths or criminals. No matter where they are, this 5% will work to pervert their environment for their own sick reasons.
Today, this 5% of the GOP is working overtime and has succeeded in scaring up to 20% of the right wing into believing that Muslims as a whole are people to be feared, and that Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Two recently released polls show that an increasing number of Americans believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of people who believe this false claim cite the media as the source of that information — and, indeed, the right-wing media have incessantly promoted this lie.
Pew: Nearly "one-in-five Americans" now say Obama is a Muslim. On August 18, the Pew Research Center released a survey on Obama and religion, conducted in early August. The poll found that "nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009," while "[o]nly about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009." The survey also found that "43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is." Pew went on to state: "The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers."
This "view" that Obama is a Muslim is "more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers" because this argument is simply ugly politics, at the expense of Muslims and everything good that America stands for.
President Obama is a Christian, and our Muslim neighbors, brothers and sisters all, deserve better.
For those of us living in progressive Park Forest, long-ago committed to embracing diversity and dispelling stereotypes, this is not news.
But the ignorant spreading this lie work hard elsewhere.
And the GOP should be ashamed.