The new slur: Calling Obama the “M” word

Last week, an Obama campaign headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, was vandalized with the words “Muslim Lier (sic).” A relatively minor incident, certainly, but an intriguing one nonetheless.

“Liar,” no matter how it is spelled, is a pretty standard accusation to hurl at a politician. Nothing surprising there. But, “Muslim”? English doesn’t lack for things to call politicians you don’t like. Why, then, of all of the things he (or she) could have called President Obama, was “Muslim” chosen?

It is no great secret that large numbers of Americans, particularly Republicans, but even some Democrats, believe that a president who is famous for using beer to solve problems is secretly a Muslim. That so many people believe such untruths is not, in itself, all that interesting. Substantial chunks of the American populace, has believed, believes, and will in the future believe, an extraordinary array of stupid things. As H.L. Mencken is often misquoted as saying, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Many on the Right have devoted truly stunning amounts of time to proving that the president is lying about being a Christian (Daniel Pipes’ five-part series for The Washington Times is an especially good compilation of this sort of nonsense). Bloggers and pundits have seized upon the slightest shred of evidence as irrefutable proof of the president’s secret Islamic orientation. For example, in 2008 he made the mistake of using the phrase “my Muslim faith” in context on ABC’s This Week, a slip for which he has never been forgiven by those such as Pipes.

The real question, though, is not how people can be so stupid, but why “Muslim” is a slur at all. Certainly, there are no rumors that the president is secretly a Buddhist or Episcopalian, for the simple reason that it wouldn’t be very damaging to call him one.

The answer is that if you don’t like the President and what he is doing, you really have two choices. You can accept that he is doing what he believes is best for the country and happens to be mistaken about it, or you can believe that he hates this country and is trying to destroy it.

Many take the mature route and select the former. But others do not, such as our vandal in Iowa. To that end, let’s play along with option B for a bit. Now why would Obama want to bring America to ruin? It would certainly be odd for a man to devote his life to serving a country he intends to destroy. If he was guided by a sinister ideology that would require him to cloak his true beliefs in order to obtain power, though, it becomes much easier to explain.

What ideology would make sense? Marxism, perhaps? It is certainly scary and anti-American enough to work, and indeed, that is the route many have gone with. Marxism though, is a bit dated to be truly scary. Radical Islam, though, is still very frightening to many. Combine that with the president’s foreign background and eternally scary middle name of Hussein and you have a very potent cocktail indeed.

Suddenly the President’s decision to support the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt is not respecting the wishes of the Egyptian people, but part of an insidious Manchurian candidate-esque story originating in Indonesia decades ago. The same goes with his support for the Park 51 mosque in New York, his refusal to attack Iran, his frosty relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu…not the decisions of a thoughtful leader trying to do what is best, but a calculated plan to subordinate this country to a virulently anti-American strain of Islam he has been incubating since his childhood. Indeed, the only real question is why American Muslims have been so slow to perceive that the country is being destroyed for their benefit.

This complicated and absurd narrative works for one reason, namely, because there are substantial numbers of people who believe that Islam, like Marxism, is simply incompatible with American values, especially in our leaders. This is backed up by polling, which reveals that only 58% of Americans would vote for a qualified candidate from their party if they happened to be a Muslim.

Pause for a moment to consider this. This hypothetical candidate is perfectly qualified in every way, yet just because he (or she) is a Muslim, some tens of millions of people would simply refuse to vote for them. Millions of Americans are thus rendered essentially ineligible to become president simply because they would take their oath on a different holy book. The 96% of poll respondents who would vote for an African American suggest that Americans realize voting based on skin color is wrong. Apparently though, religious discrimination is still considered socially acceptable,

How, then, to react? Certainly, with the truth, namely that President Obama is a Christian, but we cannot stop there. Many of the official responses simply flatly deny that he is a Muslim, which deals with the problem at hand, but not the Islamaphobic currents that caused it in the first place.

Rather, we should respond like Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, who said in a 2008 interview, “He [Obama] is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian…but the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.”

Exactly. Although Powell is not entirely alone in this position, his courageous stance is far rarer than it should be. No, the President is not a Muslim. But far more importantly, even if he was, that would not make him the slightest bit less qualified to be the President. One day the United States will be a country in which “Muslim” will not be slur anymore. But only if we have the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said here and now.