Denying Islam

Confronted with accusations of harboring an Islamic background, Senator Barack Hussein Obama has chosen to parry these “attacks” by denying the accusation on purely factual grounds.But, while it is true that the presidential candidate never attended a Madrassa school, or was ever raised in any fashion under the Islamic tradition, we do not believe this to be the most honest line of defense.The fact of the matter is that it should not matter one iota whether Obama is, was or ever will be of the Islamic faith.We take this to be a truth so powerful as to require no further explanation.It is a self-evident fact that one’s particular choice in faith, if moderate, should bar nobody from office in this country.And this lesson should be particularly clear in light of the candidacy of a man whose own race and heritage has been certainly held to greater scrutiny than any other throughout the nation and the world’s history. We do not mean to place a greater burden of tolerance on the senator merely because of his skin color, but his life and campaign are symbols of struggle and success against odds aligned against him by sole virtue of such meaningless characteristics.From such a symbol, we should expect a greater show of tolerance and acceptance – especially in today’s world of heightened anti-Islamic sentiment. If the man, who now appears likely to become the first black president in our nation’s history – the very symbol of dissolving racism in this country – cannot deny this line of attack on the merits of its clearly flawed logic, then we must take pause as citizens and reflect upon our shared responsibility to produce greater peace and justice in the world. We should feel a terrible shame, not only for allowing this line of attack, but for coming to accept this defense as at all reasonable.But the chosen tactic of denial does not do enough to refute the perilous reasoning of the argument. By denying the claim on merely factual grounds – like we would any garden-variety accusation – in a way we affirm it as a reasonable line of attack.But we cannot treat these accusations in the same way we would treat claims of corruption, poor judgment or even having an extra-marital affair.It is right to refute the facts of these claims because there is some reasonable component to these types of criticism – they genuinely call into question a person’s character and ability to lead.But how would we react if we hear Obama “accused” of being black, Sarah Palin of being a woman or Joe Lieberman of being Jewish?That reaction would not come of the same wellspring as Obama’s response to accusations of harboring Islamic ties.It would illicit far deeper displeasure – one directed at the injustice and unreason of the claim.But ultimately, and perhaps more importantly, it comes down to a basic question of fairness.Perhaps Colin Powell put it best: “Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president?”