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APRIL 28, 2008 12:45PM

To Be Educated, Black... and Suspected of Being Muslim

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Stanley Fish writes this morning on the New York Times about the McCarthyism of Obama's Bill Ayers association. There is also a full spectrum of communist accusations: there are suspicions that his parents were communists (evidence: they had an interracial marriage. No seriously, this is on the National Review), that his staffers are communist, etc.

But I believe there is one association that is a far greater problem for him than the above: that he is secretly Muslim (though I suspect that if he is anything, it's atheist/agnostic like me).

The New York Times is also running an article about the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic language school in Brooklyn, NY, which has been shrouded in controversy since its very inception in 2007. The greater theme of the article is a counter-offensive by conservative activists against the mainstreaming of Islam into American culture, which they see as a "soft jihad" and a gateway to the adoption of Sharia.

There are plently of people, in particular among the 25%-ers who still support President Bush, who are highly sympathetic to these claims. They believe Islam is evil and inherently violent, they are not adverse to deporting all Muslims/Arabs (the particulars are murky), they call Muslims "Muzzies," and they look at the accomodation of Muslims in the UK and France with horror (this is a perennial theme on The National Review, where they call Europe "Eurabia").

While I was trolling their blogs, this school came up once, when someone obliquely referred to the "publicly funded madrassa in Brooklyn."

Confronted with the particulars of the story, that the school is one of 70 language schools in the New York City school system, that it follows the exact same curriculum as all the other public schools in New York, that a cross-section of political and religious leaders support it, the extreme rightwingers were unmoved.

How moved, then, are they by Obama's repeated insistence that he is not a Muslim? These same extreme right-wingers are fascinated by the concept of al-Taqiyya, or, alleged permission in the Koran to lie to non-Muslims, and this is used as the catch-all excuse to dismiss moderate Muslims and people who deny they are Muslim, like Obama. They are all extremists, by this logic, deceiving everyone to achieve their extremist aims. And what could be more of a "soft jihad" than electing a president who is secretly Muslim? There is no way successfully deny being a Muslim in this logical universe.

Forget Obama's abstract argument that he is not a Muslim, but "Muslim" is not a pejorative anyway -- it is to so many people, in the same way that "Communist" was pejorative for decades. To the extremists' suggestible peers, the logic of al-Taqiyya is unassailable, and I, for one, don't know how to respond to this line of argument to defend Obama. When only 19% of Americans have a favorable view of Islam, and guilt-by-association is running rampant in the primary, this may very well be Obama's biggest problem in the general election.



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The story about the Khalil Gibran Academy was chilling (and very well reported.) I was going to blog about it today, but I found you already did!
Great post. What happened to the principal at the Kahil Gibran academy was a disgrace. It reminds me of what is happening to those fundamentalist Mormons in Texas who've had their kids removed and placed in foster care on the basis of one phone call which now turns out is a fraud. No one speaks up until it's too late and then the damage has already been done.
Sorry to accidentally take the wind from your sails, Joan; I'm sure there's a lot more to be said on this topic. :) I think the al-taqiyya thing is really disturbing; Daniel Pipes shouts about it from the rooftops every chance he gets.

I feel terrible for Obama. I'm an unabashed Hillary supporter, but what is being done to Obama on the Muslim-Communist front is so low and offensive and the worst kind of everything, it really gets my goad. The 25%-ers will never be convinced, but if they are 25% of the electorate, that's a huge problem. The silver lining is they hate McCain almost as much.
This is a slight tangent, but (speaking of anti-Muslim sentiments) there was an interesting piece in this Sunday's NY Times about two dissenting Muslim women -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji -- who have become two high-profile critics of contemporary Islam.
It's available here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/weekinreview/27gewen.html
Ali is probably the more controversial of the two. I saw her speak in New York a year ago, and, as the article points out, she's a terribly charismatic figure -- she came out decked out in designer clothes and high heels. She's very openly anti-Islamic (she claims that the 9/11 attacks represent the "core of Islam"), and doesn't think that Muslim values and Western ones can coexist. It's a pretty radical (and somewhat problematic) position that seems to have gained a lot of attention in Europe, but it may be helpful in creating a more honest, if somewhat more heated, dialogue about Islam and public life in the United States. At the very least, it was interesting to see the Times grappling with some of her ideas.
Thanks HisRoyalHighness and ThomasRogers. I'd definitely like to write on the FLDS thing, as I think there's a lot of interesting paternalism towards the adult women involved.

Regarding Ali, she's a firebrand, and she knows it. I liked her more then she wasn't so militantly anti-Islam. She is anti-religion in general too, I understand, but in a way that I don't think is at all productive. I also really don't appreciate how much she dislikes multi culturalism. I find that dispiriting.