Obama and anti-Muslim Bigtory in the Mainstream Media; On the Hypocrisy of the American Left
Just a short post today, Sunday, recommending that all of you take a look at Nicholas Kristof's excellent editorial in today's New York Times. Finally, someone in the mainstream media takes to task the bigotry inherent in the charges that Obama is a Muslim, something I posted about a while ago. When you start to refer to rumors about someone being Muslim as a slur without further comment, then it is an insult to an entire group of people in the United States, we Muslims, that number in the millions. From Kristof's column:
"These charges are fanatical, America's own equivalent of the vicious accusations about Jews that circulate in some Muslim countries. They are less a swipe at one candidate than a calumny against an entire religion. They underscore that for many bigoted Americans in the 21st century, calling someone a Muslim is still a slur."
My only real issue with the editorial is that it seems to focus too much on the lunatic right and not enough about how mainstream these ideas are, among the NPR, chardonnay-sipping, New York Times reading sort. He quotes extensively from earlier campaigns where candidates in our history were alleged to be blacks or Native Americans or whatever and then notes that it's too bad following the denial, they don't have the courage to ask what the relevance is.
But I guess my point is, why is the media pursuing it without recognizing it as the calumny that it is (Kristof excepted, and Bob Herbert a few weeks ago mentioned something offhand to the same effect)? Why do they just sort of ask it, without recognizing the obvious bigotry inherent in it. And it's not just the ones Kristof points out-- Glenn Beck asking Rev. Hagee about Obama being the anti-Christ (it's pretty safe to assume that if you call Catholicism the great whore, you're probably not ecumenical when it comes to Muslims), but Brian Williams asking Obama, Steve Kroft asking Hillary, about whether he is Muslim--this is mainstream. "Are you Muslim" being treated the same as "are you a child molester". To the extent the media is dismissive, it's more that the rumor is obviously false than that the premise, that it's even the slightest bit relevant, is an insult to every American Muslim. I've read a decent amount about this, obviously not everything, and by my own anecdotal count, two people have pointed out how centrally bigoted the question is. Kristof and Bob Herbert. That's what I've seen.
And yes, it IS disappointing that Obama has tended to deny these things in a manner reminiscent of George Allen denying that he has Jewish roots, as if there is some dishonor in it, even if politically necessary. Obama is generally forgiven for this among us, I think, in the same way that we all overlook Lincoln's racism and tend to ease up on the guy given the circumstances and options. As Kristof points out, Obama is generally quite respectful of Islam and I think carries a fair chunk of the American Muslim vote, including mine, though my own Iraqi Shi'i community and Iraqi Kurds will probably go with McCain, as they're a tiny Muslim constituency that still support the war that brought Saddam's downfall. (See how different we can be, we're not one monolith bringing you the burka).
As for Hillary, well after she sought to further rumors that Obama was Muslim by saying she didn't think there was any truth to the rumor "as far as I know", I just don't see how she could be defended openly in our community, though maybe one of these days someone will, I haven't heard it yet. We're not an important constituency, maybe her fanning the anti Muslim flames is smart politically in the way that alienating blacks was stupid, I don't know. But I do know that as a Muslim, I can't imagine retaining my own sense of self worth and voting for her. This obvious appeal to bald and insulting bigotry, our own generation's version of the 1920's rumors that Warren Harding was black, or had black ancestors anyway, that she is engaging in, with the full complicity of the mainstream media, left, right and center, is not something I can ignore. I just wish more people would recognize it.