Monday, March 26, 2012

Free Exercise 1/2

This is an Op-Ed from the SF Chronicle, and my commentary.

“Pundits have been pointing fingers since a recent poll found that 50 percent of Mississippi and Alabama GOP supporters said they believe that President Obama is a Muslim (with approximately another 40 percent in both states saying they are unsure).”

This is unsettling for several reasons. As someone who likes to consider himself well-informed, it disturbs me to a great degree that such a large percentage of voters can be so misinformed about something--admittedly small--so basic. It also disturbs me because it doesn’t matter.

“The crux of this particular prejudice, however, is not based in wanting to know what Obama's religion is but wanting assurances about what his religion is not. Much of this likely stems from an American populace that is still dealing with the trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which were carried out by violent Muslim extremists with the implicit guilt by association tied to all followers of Islam.
By repeatedly insisting that Obama is not now nor has he ever been a Muslim, the Obama campaign and the White House deliver a problematic message to the world, including the Muslim American minority -- 1 percent of America’s population, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life -- and the 1.6 billion Muslims living outside the United States. The message: At the very least, Muslims are unfit to be president.”

And that is the really disturbing part. There is no reason that a Muslim should be precluded from office in America--even the highest one. Muslims are as important to this country as any other group and are integral to the fabric of our society. Just as having a black, gay, woman, Eskimo, Hindu, Jew, Catholic as president would not be a concern, having a Muslim for a president should not bother any American. What reason could possibly belie a prejudice against Muslims for office?

There is the obvious implication that Obama is a radical somehow. That radicalism is somehow usurping our country and making it something it is not.

Which is patently absurd and is transparently racist. This is a nation of immigrants, and just as JFK assured the public that his Catholicism would not make him beholden to a Pope, every American swears allegiance to the US when performing the duties of their office.

There is a movement afoot that is disconcerting. It is the perception that America is in need of laws that limit freedom of religion. This isn’t the contraceptive coverage argument. This is something far more subtle and much more real. This is the radicalized notion that protection comes from codification and exclusion.