Witchhunting Barak Obama
I've been meaning to write about the whole flapdoodle over Barak Obama's childhood education. For those who may not have heard, someone purporting to be from Hilary Clinton's campaign (they've denied this) raised concerns about Barak Obama having been educated at a madressah when he lived in Indonesia as a child. While this has been discounted -- the school turns out to have been a government school that taught a normal curriculum along with classes that discussed various religions -- it certainly raises a lot issues about politics and prejudice in America.
1) So what if Barak Obama attended a madressah when he was a kid? Does attending a madressah mean you are automatically going to be some fanatical warrior for fundamentalist Islam? (as the reports seemed to imply)
Of course not.
First, most madressahs do not teach radical, militant Islam, even today. There are some groups using madressahs to promote radical visions, but most madressahs are teaching a more mainstream version of Islam. This was even more true thirty years ago when Obama was in school.
And even if he did go to one that taught a radical strain of Islam, does that mean he must necessarily espouse their views? No. Obviously, their success rate is not going to be 100%. In fact, it is going to be much, much lower than that.
2) Is a Muslim ineligible to be President of the United States of America? Last I checked, religious affiliation, or lack thereof, is not a prerequisite to holding public office in this country. Yet the pundits who were up in arms over Obama's alleged attendance at a madressah made it seem as though simply having been in contact with Muslims would disqualify him, let alone him actually being a Muslim today.
We are supposedly engaged in a war against terror, not a war against Islam. The bombing this month by the ETA in Madrid which destroyed half the Madrid airport parking garage, and the attack on the American Embassy in Greece by Greek militants, should be proof enough that Muslims are not the only one's capable of terrorist attacks, and that the war on terror should not focus solely on Muslims. (I'm actually quite angry about the lack of media coverage of these two events -- if they had been carried out by Muslims you know they would have been on the front page for days.) Would we be up in arms about a man of Greek heritage running for the Presidency? Or Basque?
3) Has prejudice against Muslim got to the point that it is assumed that if you are a Muslim you must be anti-US? That you must be reactionary, backwards, barbaric? Barak Obama was seen as polished, erudite, dedicated, one of the best Democratic orators to come across the stage in 40 years. Suddenly, his having attended a madressah makes him suspect, perhaps dangerous. How much more so those of us who actually practice Islam, unlike Obama who attends a Chicago church from time to time?
It reminds me a bit of the controversy surrounding Kennedy and his election -- could a Catholic be loyal to the US? Wouldn't he take his orders from the Pope, rather than follow the constitution he swore to uphold. Why wouldn't the same questions pertain to a Protestant -- won't he put his pastor's advice ahead of the Constitution? Or to a Hindu -- wouldn't he put his guru's advice ahead of the Constitution? Can only an atheist be President? (Heck, after Bush this is sounding like a good idea *grin*)
I suppose it isn't suprising that we are having this very same conversation fifty years later with Muslim substitued for Catholic, and Qur'an substituted for Pope. Especially not in light of events since 2001. But still, I always hope we've learned something from our past.