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.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".
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.
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."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.
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."