The author of The Kite Runner has the courage and confidence to raise a necessary issue: The anti-Muslim incitement that has become part of the Republican campaign against Obama:
Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.
…Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama’s middle name makes him someone to distrust — and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill. As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama’s middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there’s something wrong with my name?
To the extent that they are the product of cynical calculation, the attacks on Obama as Muslim are meant to put him in a double bind: If he says, as he should, that bigotry against Muslims is offensive and unacceptable, some voters will presume that he is defending himself and see his comment as “proof” that he is a Muslim. If he says he isn’t a Muslim, he confirms that being a Muslim is somehow un-American.
Actually, I doubt that cynical calculation is the main factor in these attacks. The driving force is fear and hatred of any different, an emotional frame that easily combines African-American, Muslim, even raised-in-Hawaii as proofs that “that one” isn’t one of us. The emotion is: Real Americans look like me and my family.
McCain, meanwhile, finally shushed some of the more vicious anti-Obama slurs at a town meeting. But notice how:
After a woman calls Obama “an Arab” McCain interrupts to say: “No, ma’am. He is a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”
From which we learn that for McCain, “Arab” and “decent family man” are mutually exclusive categories. Thanks for the straight talk, John.
I’m curious as to whether any of the major American Jewish groups that make it their business to condemn anti-Semitism and bigotry have made it their business to condemn the anti-Muslim bigotry surfacing in the Republican campaign. They should be doing so both as a matter of principle and as a matter of self-interest: Jews should be concerned about any attempt to make one’s religion a criteria of being legitmately American. I don’t get the press releases of all those organizations, and I don’t claim to remember every press release that’s clogged my inbox. If any readers have seen a statement from, say, the ADL, on this subject, please comment and let us know. A link would be welcome.