Obama and Muslims: Part II

By Aswini Anburajan

We began blogging about Barack Obama’s troubled relations with Muslims and Arab-Americans yesterday. Today the headline in The New York Times reads “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub From Obama.” The article, which has an interview with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, says the campaign has repeatedly snubbed the Muslim community’s efforts to reach out to the campaign. The Obama campaign counters that Sen. Obama has spoken favorably about Muslims and recorded a radio ad for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), the second Muslim elected to Congress. In an interview with ’60 Minutes,’ Mr. Obama said the rumors (that he is a Muslim) were offensive to American Muslims because they played into “fearmongering.” But on a new section of his Web site, he classifies the claim as a “smear.” “A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way,” Rep. Ellison said.

The criticism comes as the Obama campaign has ramped up its push to court Christians and Evangelicals, to the consternation of other religious groups. The Wall Street Journal quotes Tony Kutayli, a spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and himself a Christian: “There have been some concerns that courting Christians could alienate voters from other faiths, like Jews and Muslims. And the fact that Obama’s new anti-smear website has taken such pains to discredit the allegation that he is a Muslim, and therefore somehow linked to radical Islamism, could offend Muslim voters. If he were a Muslim, so what? That insinuates that if he were a Muslim, he’s automatically a jihadist. That’s incredibly insulting to people of the Muslim faith and Arabs who are Christian.”

Meanwhile a new site launched by Obama’s campaign, Fightthesmears.com, has drawn criticism from Salon.com. Rather than fighting smears, Salon says the new page plays into fears and gives legitimacy to a rumor that should be in the category of too false, too outlandish and too impolite to repeat.

Salon continues, “Late last week Barack Obama’s campaign launched Fight the Smears, a Web site that aims to put a lid on the chain e-mail-based rumors that have menaced the Senator’s presidential bid since its inception. By now you’re probably familiar with the smears in question: Obama is secretly a Muslim, he refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag, he was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on a Quran, and his terrorist-fist-jabbbing wife has taken to calling people ‘whitey.’ As political rumors go, these are of a piece with John McCain’s illegitimate black baby: Too ugly for polite company, the stories thrive on e-mail and talk-radio hearsay, and though they’re trivial to debunk (the truth is just a Web search away), the lies seem possessed of uncanny sticking power. Polls show belief in the Obama-is-a-Muslim rumor now hovers at around 10 to 13 percent, up from single digits last December.”