Note to Obama: So What?

In response to the Chicago-Tribune article: “Even if Obama were a Muslim, so what?”

Feature 206Leonard Pitts’ editorial “Even if Obama were a Muslim, so what?” (Jan. 29) addresses an issue that the Muslim community faces on a daily basis: the presupposition that there is something wrong with being a follower of Islam.

For many Americans, this is not an explicit outlook but rather an unconscious attitude that reveals itself in discourse. It is the idea that Muslims are not fully American. Unfortunately, Obama said that he was the victim of internet rumor, as if the accusation of being a Muslim amounted to negative campaigning.

Thank you, Mr. Pitts, for revealing what many know through experience. Thirty-five percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Muslims in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center. No other religious group faces such a large constituency of antagonists. There is a valuable separation of church and state in America. But we should never forget that this also includes temple and state, and mosque. As Pitts said, religious affiliation should have nothing to do with “electability” as long as a candidate is not overzealous.

It is a shame that anti-Muslim attitudes have become such an ingrained part of the American discourse that candidates for the President of the United States do not bat an eye when allaying “fears” that they are part of a religion. If only Obama had said something echoing Leonard Pitts’ editorial: “No, I’m not a Muslim. But, so what?”