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Obama's Not A Muslim, But Lots Of Good People Are

Susan Campbell


October 26, 2008,0,7271066.column




Colin Powell was right.


The retired general and former secretary of state appeared on "Meet the Press" last Sunday to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and then he had this to say about Obama's religion:


"The correct answer is: 'He is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is: 'What if he is?'" Powell said. "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no. That's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?"


Some of us me, included have been so quick to remind people that Obama is not a Muslim that we forgot to finish the sentence: So what if he is? The result of distancing Obama from Islam makes it appear that the religion is a bad thing. John McCain made the same mistake when a woman at a town hall meeting falsely said Obama is an Arab, and the Republican presidential candidate responded that no, he's a decent family man. Arabs can be that, too, and Muslims can be president.


There's a price to pay for such talk, and the bill is on all of our tabs, not just that of the six or seven million Muslims in this country.


Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America and director of Hartford Seminary's Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, said via e-mail that "it is shameful how anti-Arab and anti-Muslim statements are almost never challenged or rejected by anyone in this election campaign. It is taking a big toll on our kids."


In September during Islam's holy month of Ramadan someone stood outside the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton and sprayed something toxic through the open window. Inside were the small children of mosque members. Several people including the babies felt the effects of the chemical. The mosque was evacuated, and a HAZMAT crew came.


A few days later, Dayton police insisted this wasn't a hate crime.


For their part, mosque officials called for calm among the members and said they'd issue no statement until the investigation, which is ongoing, is completed. They are also discussing increasing security at the mosque.


The Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations- Ohio has been working with the mosque, said council executive director Karen Dabdoub. Roughly 30,000 Muslims live in the Cincinnati area, she said, and the community picked up on the Obama Muslim denial months ago.


"No, he's not a Muslim, but there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim," said Dabdoub, who converted to Islam from Christianity. "That's the way it always is. Unless it's directed at you, it doesn't appear on your radar usually. And I have to say, I'm guilty of it as well."


Better to reiterate that Obama is a Christian. "Why do we have to talk about what he's not?" she said.


So, just as a guide, in the coming days, Dabdoub suggests that people remember the Golden Rule a credo embraced by all major religions.


In Christianity, the idea is to do to others what you'd have done to yourself. In Islam, said Dabdoub, the notion is that true believers want for their neighbors what they want for themselves. We could all start with respect.


Copyright 2008, The Hartford Courant


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