“Obama and Muslim voters a ‘double whammy’?” by Michael Conlon, for Reuters, July 25:
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Barack Obama should be able to count on heavy support from U.S. Muslims in the November election, if polls are correct, but he risks offending some members of that faith by having to explain he is not one himself.
This is by far an over-exaggerated “risk.” Muslims know that, to reach the Oval Office, Obama has to “distance” himself from their faith—after all, taqiyya is a part of the culture. I have even spoken with an Obama-supporting Muslim who has made this clear: when asked how he “felt” about Obama’s recent distancing from Islam, he simply said, “Well, of course he has to act this way, publicly.” At any rate, what alternative is left Muslims — McCain?
There have also been unconfirmed reports that the Obama campaign plans to appoint a liaison to the Muslim community.
A religion section on an Obama Web site, “Fight the Smears,” that was created to deal with such rumors, labels claims that he is a Muslim a “lie” and states he “has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim and is a committed Christian.”
“We know he isn’t a Muslim but who cares if he is?” said Sofian Zakkout, director of the American Muslim Association of North America.
Obama’s pledge “to bring communities together” is his appeal, Zakkout said, and “We don’t expect him to come to us and say, ‘I’m with you.’ We don’t need that.”
Exactly, since in this context “bringing communities together” means nothing less than placing American Muslims in a stronger, less assailable, position.
But Saaqib Rangoonwala, managing editor of Southern California InFocus, a Muslim newspaper, sees a close election in which “American Muslim votes will be needed and it is time for Muslims to take a stand …
“Muslims are not less deserving of Obama’s time than other groups that he has met with … to his credit, he met with a Muslim leader and personally apologized to the Muslim women who were banned by campaign volunteers from sitting behind the podium at a Detroit rally because the women wore hijabs,” he said.
But he thinks Obama may be “overcompensating” in trying to correct the misconception he is a Muslim, leaving the impression that being a Muslim is somehow un-American — a “double whammy.”
Not so: clever Obama knows that he can go out of his way to distance himself from Muslims, thereby appearing more neutral and objective in non-Muslim American eyes, and at the same time still count on Muslim votes, since rare is the Muslim who will vote for McCain anyway.
Abdulaziz Al-Salim, 23, a Minnesota native who now lives in Daman, Saudi Arabia, where he works as a financial analyst for Saudi Aramco, the oil company, said he was sad that “being associated with Muslims is a political liability.”
But he said he would vote for Obama “for the same reasons that everyone else is supporting him. He’s a unifier, charismatic and represents change.”