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Islamophobia and politics

One can expect the right wing of American politics to engage in distortion and race baiting.  It goes as far back as I can remember and that includes the administration of Richard Nixon.  So it is today, and the modern day target is the clean cut Arab/muslim guy or gal.  Mazen Asbahi is “it” today and I’m baffled in one sense but not totally surprised in another.  Baffled because monsieur Asbahi is as clean as they come, except for a really rather tangential connection to someone who had an equally tangentially inconsequential relationship with someone who…..well you know the rest.  This all boils down to party politics; Asbahi worked for Obama, and I guess it’s a little too much for the American palate to digest, so many strange sounding names working together.  But Asbahi has bonafides that not too many people who might even call themselves red blooded Americans possess, so I find his selection as a target unfortunate.  No matter how squeaky clean you try to get you can never get clean enough if you have one of those strange names or a swarthy complexion, but it’s just those characteristics that make him such an easy target. What inevitably the racists in American politics are trying to do is dilute the potency of Islamic charities by calling into question their raison d’etre and the full might of the US government to shut them down and take their assets.  For that reason I wish Asbahi had not resigned his position with the Obama campaign; there are bigger stakes here than helping someone who will gladly kick you to the curb in order to get elected. (That he decided to step down probably speaks more for his integrity than that of the Obama campain. )  Islamic charities have an important role to play in helping Muslims in developing countries maintain a subsistence level lifestyle; just as the cash strapped economies of central and south America depend on money from the American job force, so do those societies in the Middle East.  (Just ask Israel) Mazen was a political football kicked around to hurt a candidate who is running scared from the Muslim label and to damage the work of some honest hard working Muslims who wanted to establish a viable organization to help people at home and abroad.  I suspect there’ll be a lot more of this kind of election year posturing as the political season continues.


“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people
cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented,
in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet
under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public
liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not
warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let
them take arms.”
Thomas Jefferson

Obama’s woes continue

I hadn’t given one iota’s thought to Obama’s race problem, or rather the problem his race is to the election process in a race conscious society like America which always tries to hide the depts of the problem by ignoring it.  But sure enough, race has reared it’s ugly head, and it’s from of all places, the corporate media. Check out the question being asked by some in mainstream media:

Can Black Journalists be trusted to cover Obama?

For me the question begs, do we even have black journalists, they are so rarely seen. In any event the writer tries to set the record straight.  I guess because of that question the sole black journalist covering the McCain campaign’s stop in Florida was singled out and told to leave the press pool, so perhaps we should turn the question on its face and ask if black journalists can be trusted to cover McCain?  Of course this brings back all the ugly racial stereotypes of African-Americans…..can blacks be trusted with your women, can they be trusted in your schools, etc., etc that have been a part of America for many years

So I guess you could call this piling on, when I reiterate my complaint about Obama’s handling of the Muslim constituency.  I found a rather excellent editorial by a secularist white guy that I think speaks to the heart of how Obama should handle this.  I keep finding pieces that I think tell Obama succinctly what he should do to combat this part of his image problem, and it seems he is listening to everybody BUT, which makes me wonder whether an Obama administration will be equally poorly advised.

Will anyone notice? Barack Obama’s team just threw its key Muslim advisor under the bus.

Barack Obama needs to make a statement loudly, clearly, and with passion that he embraces Muslims as much as any other Americans of Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or other religious persuasions. It wouldn’t hurt for him to embrace devout secularists like me for that matter.

But I’m irritated and saddened by news that Barack Obama’s Muslim-outreach coordinator, Mazen Asbahi, has resigned “amid questions about his ‘involvement’ in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups.”

Let’s tally up Obama’s Muslim outreach record:

~ Obama campaign apparatchiks ask young Muslim women not to stand in photo with Obama because of head scarves (Obama campaign later apologizes).~ Barack Obama gives AIPAC speech that manages to run to the right of President Bush and Israel Prime Minister Ohlmert in demanding that “Jerusalem must not be divided.” (Obama later recants after the fact)

~ Barack Obama not only terminates Middle East advisor Robert Malley from his team because of Malley’s views that Hamas should be engaged — but his spokesman, Bill Burton, states that not only is Rob Malley no longer advising Obama “but will never advise Obama”. That’s running the bus over someone and then backing it up to make sure that Malley doesn’t survive and has no chance in an Obama administration. I like to remind folks that Paul Volcker and Ted Sorensen signed the same letter Malley did but have thus far missed the campaign guillotine.

~ Barack Obama gives an inspirational speech to more than 200,000 Germans in Berlin calling for a “World Without Walls.” But Obama is silent in Israel when it is the wall dividing Israelis and Palestinians that is becoming an increasingly worse and impactful global ulcer.

~ Barack Obama spends 30 plus hours in Israel and 45 minutes in Ramallah during his recent trip and meets many Iraelis who have been pro-settilement expansion, solidly violating international law and US policy. Some on Obama’s advisory team turn a blind eye to Israel’s expanding settlements and continue to be associated with and meet with settlement zealots — but Obama keeps ALL of these people on his team.

~ Barack Obama accepts the resignation of a mainstream Arab-American lawyer from his advisory team because eight years ago, Mazen Asbahi served on a board “for a few weeks” that included a muslim fundamentalist imam from Illinois. Asbahi resigned from the board. . .eight years ago.

What? Wait? Obama has had a many years long relationship with Jeremiah Wright — and sat on a board with William Ayers — NEITHER of which I think are disqualifiers for Obama’s candidacy. . .and yet Obama’s political team and Obama himself did not demand from Asbahi that he stay on the team, stand his ground, and fight back against the vile right-wing hit on him and his credibility?!

I think that this is outrageous — and those on the left who appreciate Obama and what he may mean for this country must become as tenaciously committed to what is right and what is good — and fighting for that — because those on the other side of these debates are trying to compel Obama to dilute himself.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an effective and popular MUSLIM Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations. We need more Muslims in our diplomatic corps. We need Muslims on the Supreme Court. We need more Muslims like Keith Ellison in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Obama should say it. Convince the American public that he’s not setting up a zero sum game between Muslims on one side and Christians and Jews on the other.

Obama is a Christian. I get that. I’m a secularist hard core — but I won’t stand by to watch more good people be flushed down the political drain because they are Muslims trying to work for a balanced and level playing field in America.

This resignation by Asbahi stinks — and Obama and his team should immediately call him back and help him stand up to anti-Muslimism in America.