So, what if he were a Muslim?! or On Intolerance and National Security

Rock on Colin Powell!

I think the most important aspect of the General’s much talked about endorsement of Barack Obama on Meet the Press today was his head-on repudiation of the despicable whisper campaign to spread the misconception that Obama is a Muslim (ironically — or not — enough, similar to another presidential disinformation campaign in recent memory):

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say and it is permitted to be said. Such things as: “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.”

Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He has always been a Christian.

But, the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being Muslim in this country?

The answer is no, that’s not America.

Amen! If you haven’t watched the whole thing, you really should — it’ll make you want to write in Colin Powell in November. 

In the immortal words of Sarah Silverman: “Yes, Barack Hussein Obama, it’s a super-fucking-shitty name. But, you’d think that somebody named Manischewitz Guberman might understand that.” Otherwise put, we are a nation of immigrants, a conglomeration of people who represent ethnicities, cultures, and religions from all over the world. This country began as a safe-haven from religious persecution, and made history by being the first to enshrine measures against intolerance (i.e. separation of church and state) in its founding documents. The sad irony of the long and violent history of xenophobia in America is that it is generally the last people to be shit on who are first in line to shit on the new arrivals. It’s like the frat boys (full disclosure: I was in a fraternity 😉 ) who haze the pledges because they had themselves been hazed.

But in this case, this latent anti-Muslim sentiment being exploited isn’t just un-American, it is a threat to our national security. Not just our nation, but our entire way of life, is under siege by Islamic Fundamentalism. However, the operative word here is the second, fundamentalism, *not* the first. We are not being attacked by Muslims, we are being attacked by fundamentalists, who happen to be hiding behind the banner of Islam. They are painting the western world, led by the US, as modern day Crusaders intent on wiping Islamic culture from the earth. We, they argue, are the ones who have made this an all-or-nothing battle for the very survival of Islam — it is *our* intolerance and need for Judeo-Christian culture to dominate that dictates the inability for our two worlds to peacefully coexist. So, for Americans to let the heinous acts of extremists foment mainstream intolerance of Muslims in our country is truly to let the terrorists win.

I believe the true front-line in the “War on Terror” is not on the ground in Iraq or Tora Bora, it is ideological. There is no doubt that we must find and bring to justice the leaders of these terrorist organizations. That is absolutely necessary, but it is also far from sufficient. Because without winning the ideological battle, new leaders will spring up to replace them. The only way to truly win the war for the possibility of peaceful coexistence is to starve these organizations of their oxygen — to take away the support of the people. It is not Osama Bin Laden who is blowing himself up at US checkpoints in Iraq, and it is not true believers who are providing food and supplies to the Al Qaida leadership hiding in the mountains of Pakistan. The Fundamentalists have successfully convinced an ever growing portion of the Muslim world — the individual people, not the governments — that it is us or them, and the support of those people is the true source of their strength.

More than 20% of the world’s population is Muslim, including over 150M Muslims in each Pakistan and India, both with nuclear weapons, and 70M in Turkey, which is likely to become a member of the EU in the next 15 years. And in France, the Muslim population is estimated to be as high as 10% (the French census doesn’t ask religion). Our way of life cannot survive if we continue to let the Fundamentalists’ campaign of disinformation persist, or even worse, if we contribute to it. We must demonstrate to the people of the Muslim world, with our words and our deeds, that ours is a culture of tolerance and that there is another choice beyond having their culture destroyed or supporting terrorists. And, the responsibility to spread this message of coexistence does not just lie with our governments, it is ours as citizens as well.

Some links of note:

<update>
Credit where credit’s due. As much as I like to malign cable news, props to CNN’s Campbell Brown for tackling this issue (with an almost identical title) before Colin Powell (and even before The Daily Show!). Thanks Sean for the find.
</update>

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6 thoughts on “So, what if he were a Muslim?! or On Intolerance and National Security”

  1. I would go so far as to say that America is under attack by fundamentalists, period. Islamic fundamentalists are trying direct physical attack, while Christian fundamentalists are undermining the system from within, destroying institutions and weakening the checks and balances that maintain American principles of justice and fairness.

    Christian and Islam fundamentalists are not opposing forces, they are the same side, and everybody else is on the other side.

  2. @Laurie: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I just didn’t necessarily want to get too far off point (you know how I’m prone to ramble on with these blog post thingies 😉 ).

    @kareem: Yeah, the Daily Show hit that one pretty squarely on the head a couple weeks ago when McCain contradicted one of his supporters who claimed Obama was an “Arab” with the retort “No, he’s a decent family man”:

    I like that Powell drove home the point that this isn’t only stupid and closed-minded, but it’s also un-American.

  3. Before pontificating about life and death issues, one should learn enough about the subject to make accurate logical judgments.

    If you have not read the Qur’an and the Jihad hadith from Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud & Malik’s Muwatta, you are woefully ignorant, spewing disinformation.

    Islam is intrinsically violent; mercenary & martial, by design. Jihad is ordained for Muslims by 2:216. Islamic law defines Jihad: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying warfare to establish the religion.” Reliance of the traveller, Book O, Chapter 9, Paragraph 0. Read O9.8 to discover what the Caliph does and why. Read O9.1 to learn how frequently he must do it.

    Allah purchased the Muslims, so that they kill and are killed fighting in his cause, and enter Paradise in return. Read 9:111 if you doubt this. Read 61:10-13 to learn what Muslims must do to be saved.

    Would the greatest generation have elected a Nazi to preside over them? But you are willing to elect a Muslim. Ignorant idiots.

  4. @Dajjal: I will fully admit to not having read the Qur’an cover-to-cover. So, you’ve got me there. But, I personally know enough Muslims who haven’t tried to kill me that I have a hard time accepting your position — or maybe my Muslim friends just aren’t pious enough.

    Regardless of my personal experience, I also take issue with your practice of quoting arcane passages of 1,500 year old scripture in support of your theories on the beliefs of *all* modern-day Muslims. First of all, most religions, like Christianity, have many different denominations with varying practices and beliefs. As such, it would seem, at best, highly reductionist to lump all Muslims (or, as you call them, members of Moe’s Murder Cult) and their beliefs together.

    Secondly, arguing based on literal interpretation of scripture is a very slippery slope. I don’t know if you’re a religious individual and if so to what religion you subscribe, but the vast majority of this great nation is Christian. So, let’s start there:

    • “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.” – Exodus 21:7
    • “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.” – Exodus 35:2
    • “Of [pigs’] flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.” – Leviticus 11:8

    Having lived in America for the last 28 years, I’m pretty sure you can’t sell your daughter, I’ve never heard of anyone being put to death for working on a Sunday, and I’ve seen bacon on a lot of breakfast menus. (And if those examples sound familiar, it’s because I stole them from an episode of “The West Wing.” — or watch the video, if you prefer.)

    But, we don’t even have to go back 2,000 years or speculate on people’s religious beliefs to find an arcane passage universally disavowed by adherents of the document in which it’s written. How about, Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution:

    • “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

    Over the course of the 221 years since those words were written, our leaders have acted (the Emancipation Proclamation), more documents have been written (the 13th Amendment), and our attitudes and behaviors have changed to the extent that the original meaning of those few words still written in our nation’s most sacred document are at odds with everything we believe today.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t consider quoting inflammatory passages from the Qur’an a particularly convincing indictment of all Muslims.

    Also, National Socialism (Naziism) was a political movement and Islam is a religion.

    And finally, Barack Obama is *not* a Muslim. So, for this election at least, the point is moot. But for the record, I would vote for a Muslim if one with whose policies I agreed were running.

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