NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Islamophobia goes unchallenged

Foes use Obama’s Muslim ties to fuel rumors about him

In his speeches and often on the Internet, the part of Sen. Barack Obama’s biography that gets the most attention is not his race but his connections to the Muslim world.

Since declaring his candidacy for president in February, Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, has had to address assertions that he is a Muslim or that he had received training in Islam in Indonesia, where he lived from ages 6 to 10. While his father was an atheist and his mother did not practice religion, Obama’s stepfather did occasionally attend services at a mosque there.

Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a “Muslim plant” in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year. [complete article]

WaPo reporter responds to all the criticism of front-page Obama Muslim piece

Okay, the Washington Post reporter who wrote today’s front page article on the rumors that Obama is a Muslim has now responded to all the criticism of the piece he’s been getting from readers and elsewhere today.

A number of you have written in to us to say that you had emailed the reporter, Perry Bacon, Jr., and that you had received responses from him. So I went to Bacon, and he sent over a shortened version of the statement he’s been sending back to readers:

I thought the facts that 1. these falsehoods persist and 2. Obama make mentions of his time living in a Muslim country on the campaign trail as part of his foreign policy were both worth remarking. I think the story makes clear, including in the candidate’s own words, he is a Christian.

Anyway, that’s Bacon’s response. Enter it into the record forthwith.

Update: In a chat with readers today, WaPo reporter Lois Romano addressed the controversy over the story. She observed that Obama has denied being a Muslim, adding that “airing some of this and giving him a chance to deny its accuracy could be viewed as setting the record straight.”

Right, but the problem here is that WaPo, and not just Obama, should have “denied the accuracy” of the Obama-is-a-Muslim nonsense. The Obama Muslim smear is based on lies, not “rumors.” Bacon in his statement above calls the Obama Muslim smears “falsehoods.” But they aren’t identified as such in the piece. That’s what everyone is yelling about. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — Let’s suppose that the word flying around the rightwing blogosphere was that Obama was Jewish. Would anyone be referring to that as a smear? Obama and others would point out that he’s a Christian, not a Jew, but we would not be hearing about the Obama “Jewish smears.”

In the outrage being expressed about the Obama “Muslim smear”, where is the outrage at the fact that in pluralistic, democratic America the label Muslim can be used as a smear? Apparently it goes without saying that Islamophobia is a socially acceptable current in presidential politics.

If the editor’s of the Washington Post want to salvage their newspaper’s reputation, how about reporting on the parallels between American images of Communists during the McCarthy era and the bipartisan vilification of Islam and Muslims that exists as an unchallenged bigotry in much of America today?

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One thought on “NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Islamophobia goes unchallenged

  1. hquain

    Back in September, the WaPo itself published an article on recent psychological research that shows exactly what’s wrong with the ‘Obama-denies’ piece and what’s even more dangerous about the follow-up. In sum: the human mind — no logic machine — is not very good with ‘not’, best recalls often-repeated content, and then regards easy-to-recall things as likely to be true.

    Key paragraphs:

    “The experiments do not show that denials are completely useless; if that were true, everyone would believe the myths. But the mind’s bias does affect many people, especially those who want to believe the myth for their own reasons, or those who are only peripherally interested and are less likely to invest the time and effort needed to firmly grasp the facts.

    “The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people’s minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.

    “Indeed, repetition seems to be a key culprit. Things that are repeated often become more accessible in memory, and one of the brain’s subconscious rules of thumb is that easily recalled things are true.”

    Vedantam, Shankar. Sept. 4, 2007.

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