Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Colin Powell and Ben Affleck Address the Muslim/Arab Issue

For a while, it felt like it was simply becoming okay to accept the answer to the "Barack Obama is a Muslim!" rumor by saying, admittedly correctly, that he's not, he's a Christian, and he has never been Muslim. Despite that, about 13% of Americans still believe that Obama is Muslim.

Colin Powell, in one of the most well-thought out, articulate endorsements of any this year, finally made the distinction between the "correct" answer and the "right" answer to this question:

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; has always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is, "What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" The answer's "No, that's not America."

Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be President?

Yet, I have heard senior members of my own Party drop the suggestion he's Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery. And she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards – Purple Heart, Bronze Star; showed that he died in Iraq; gave his date of birth, date of death. He was twenty years old.

And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American.

He was born in New Jersey, he was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he could go serve his country and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that within the party we have these kinds of expressions.
A separate incident a little over a week ago at a McCain-Palin town-hall meeting featured a woman who told John McCain that she was afraid of an Obama's presidency because he's "an Arab".

This time, it was Ben Affleck who addressed it best on Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher (starting at 5:20 in the clip):
"...(John McCain) said, "No he's not an Arab, he's a good man."

What if someone said, "I heard he was a Jew..." and I said, "No, no, no, he's not a Jew, he's alright..."? 'Arab' and 'good person' are not antithetical to one another!

We've allowed this idea, denying the fact that Obama - who, yes, is not an Arab, nor is he a Muslim - (that) we've allowed that denial to turn into the acceptance of both of those things as a legitimate slur is really a problem.

Instead of standing up and saying these aren't slurs, these are categories of human beings, they're not slurs of people - no one in the media stood up and said that. And instead they just follow around Joe the Plumber, it's the same bullshit they do every fucking day over and over again."
Despite the fact that Obama is neither Muslim nor Arab, his historic campaign may give rise to a more balanced national dialogue not only on race, but on what has been another kind of bigotry - one that is novel and easily overlooked, but just as significant.


CKAinRedStateUSA said...

Obama may not be a Muslim, if you believe those "expert" mouthpieces you reference, but I doubt seriously he's a Christian either, regardless of what he says."Out of the gate, Powell lies about Obama's 'Christianity.'"

Ali A. Rizvi said...

I agree. His father was an atheist and his mother agnostic. I think he found religion in his 20s to form connections as a community organizer in South Chicago.

Being a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew is essentially the same thing from my standpoint. A kook from one cult should have the same opportunities as a kook from another.

CKAinRedStateUSA said...

You'd be very wrong about your assessment about Christians, Muslims and Jews.

"A kook from one cult is as good as another"?

Mock as you will.

I pray you understand before you no longer have the opportunity to understand.

Besides, insulting others is not really a way to persuade anyone, is it, really?

Ali A. Rizvi said...

I know, I was just having fun with that last line - remember, this piece is against religious bigotry. But I did forget to throw in an emoticon - my bad, and you're right.

On a serious note, I do think it's about time to get rid of religion as a qualifying OR disqualifying factor for the presidency. It should have no place in a campaign. The Founding Fathers didn't think so (some of them were virtually anti-religion, like Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, etc), and they're right.

The bottom line is, Obama can be a Muslim, he may not be a Muslim, he may not be a Christian either, or a Jew, and he may not even be an atheist - whether he is or he isn't any of these things really should not be of consequence.

I don't think either Obama or McCain are especially religious. But they can't say that - specially McCain - because it might cost them the election.

docanwar said...

There's very little doubt about Colin Powell's presidential demeanor and rhetoric. And the point is well made. I think a distinction can be made between cults and major religions (roots in history, social reform, composition of followers etc). Finally, I think being "religious" is such a subjective term, and I agree with its exclusion from the political arena. What would work much better is articulation of clear positions on social, economic and foreign policy issues.

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youtube downloader said...

This is just ridiculous... I wonder who on Earth spreads such rumors and who believes them despite everything...

Emerald said...

It can't really have effect, I believe this way.

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