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