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Monday, February 25, 2008

Obama as an Arab? Hillary as an Arab?

So what is your point Hillary?

Hillary Clinton in Muslim Head Wrap

AAPP: The Clintons seem to be having a great old time denigrating the Obama Photo in African Attire. One would think from Ms. Hillary "NAFTA" Clinton that the Arab community is in love with Obama. Well according to some Arabs, they are not feeling Obama. For example, Firas Ahmad who is an essayist based in Cambridge, MA. noted recently in a piece originally appeared in islamicamagazine.com.

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He notes:

"As Obamamania continues to capture the imagination of the United States, parts of the American Muslim community are no less overcome by the Illinois Senator's charismatic and overpowering vision for change. It makes sense. He is a man of diverse ethnic background who seeks dialogue over war, who can credibly represent change given his independence from establishment politics and whose life story suggests an intimate understanding of the Muslim world. In many ways he represents more than Muslims could have hoped for given the radioactive nature of Islam in America over the past several years. Someone who seemingly has a sympathetic ear and background that could build bridges.

But for many reasons, Muslims are one constituency Obama does not want to court. With a wink and a nod, Obama's Muslim supporters continue to work for a candidate who cannot afford to wink back at them. Given his perceived "closeness" to Islam, and the fact that he shares a name with a former Iraqi dictator, it could be strategic suicide for the Obama campaign to vocally acknowledge organized Muslim support. At a time when endorsements are worn like badges of honor, no major candidate is looking for the Muslim vote.

No doubt if Obama wins the nomination, the Republicans will exploit this issue far more than Bill Clinton attempted to manipulate race in South Carolina. McCain will never have to say a word, the "hit job" will be manufactured and executed by his friends on Fox News, via the airwaves with Rush and Hannity (who would have overcome their issues with McCain by then) and through tabloids like the New York Post. Vocal Muslim support for Obama, if it happens, will likely be used as subtext for character attacks against his background and to fuel baseless rumors that he is actually a stealth Islamist who will subvert the establishment after taking power.

As Don Imus can attest, racism and bigotry against African Americans is now largely unacceptable in public discourse. However, the same cannot be said of vitriol against Muslims. Attacking Obama for his pseudo-association with Islam is a far safer and more acceptable strategy for right-wing zealots than attacking him for being black. So if Obama has a campaign strategist worth his or her weight, we will never hear any serious public support or defense of Muslims from him or his campaign. For Muslims to demand anything from him simply demonstrates a misunderstanding of reality. Muslim support for Obama is akin to George Bush's support for democracy in the Middle East. The mere association with the former will undercut the credibility of the latter. It is an analogy that Muslims should understand.

Obama's lack of public defense of Islam is not so much an indictment against him as it is a demonstration of the infantile state of Muslim political participation in America. While it is impossible to tell, it would be reasonable to assume that if Obama could say something nice about Muslims he would because he wants votes from any and all Americans. Muslims fit squarely into the demographic that he appeals to most - professional, educated and young. The only reason a candidate like Obama would not say something nice about Muslims is because he is making a clear political calculation. The votes he would gain from Muslims are far less than the votes he would lose from his association with Muslims. More HERE



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