Thursday, February 14, 2008


Barack Obama's candidacy leaves some Muslims wanting more

Muslim Americans and political observers heralded the 2006 elections as a sort of debutante's ball for the Muslim voter, when anger and organizational heft pushed unprecedented numbers of Muslim citizens to vote and get involved with U.S. politics.

The 2008 election cycle, however, isn't quite working out that way.

Many Muslim Americans sense that presidential candidates have, at worst, conflated their faith with terrorism, and, at best, treated them as a liability to be kept at arm's length.

They're especially disappointed that Sen. Barack Obama, in denying claims that he is a closeted Muslim, left it at that. They say he could have at least defended Muslims, or knocked down the notion that being a Muslim is somehow a negative.

"I think he knows Islam isn't a violent religion, but he certainly has some sort of hesitancy to talk about his experience with it because of a fear that this will damage his campaign," said Qasim Rashid, 25, who covered the issue on his weekly Muslim-themed online radio show.

It's almost as if Muslims are asking for an Obama version of the famous "we're-not-gay" denial from "Seinfeld": "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Many Muslims say the dust-up over Obama's Muslim rumors reflects their continued persona non grata status in U.S. politics ever since 9/11. In fact, some Muslims aren't surprised at all.

"I wish Barack had been more vocal about the fact that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim," said Pamela Taylor, a Muslim American activist in Indianapolis, but added, "Clearly no one wants to be deemed a 'Muzzie-lover.'"

Candidates have been keeping Muslims at a distance since even before 9/11. In her 2000 race for the Senate in New York, Hillary Clinton returned $50,000 in contributions from the American Muslim Alliance after her Republican opponent alleged, wrongly, that the group had terrorist links.

The Obama controversy stems from a 2007 article from the conservative Insight Magazine, which alleged that Obama, whose middle name is Hussein, attended a radical Islamic school as a young boy in Indonesia.


Pertinent Links:

1) Barack Obama's candidacy leaves some Muslims wanting more

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