Friday, April 11, 2008

Barack Hussein Obama!

In the first week of January 2008, back when the democratic presidential nomination had barely started, I had a discussion with my colleague at work with whom I car-pooled. She wanted to know if I had any favorites among the presidential candiates and parties. I told her as a matter of fact that I would love to see Barack Obama nominated, and then elected as the President. I instantly felt that she was uncomfortable with my answer. When I asked her what she thinks, she immediately quipped, 'Anyone but Obama'. When I asked her why, her answer was simple, that he was a muslim. This was my first 'political' conversation with someone in the US and here I was confronted with what to say. I just smiled. But I realized one thing at that moment. If this person, a colleague of mine with a graduate degree from a prestegeous American University, someone who has access to the internet and all the fact checking resources believes against all evidence that Obama is a muslim, what about thousands of Americans who have no access to information but radio talk shows that are inundated with narrow conservatism? While its a personal matter to like or dislike or select or reject a candidate, to wrongly assume something without even bothering to use the tools available at ones disposal is being absolutely lazy, in my opinion.
Well, as time passed I forgot about this issue and continued to be interested in the democratic party political process keenly. But somewhere at the back of my mind was the thought about the various rumors doing the rounds, like Obama is a muslim and the like and how the Obama campaign was vehemently denying he was one and then he going on talking about this Christian faith etc. The question I am bothered by is, So what if he is a Muslim? Doesn't the US constitution say that there has to be religious tolerance in the country? Didn't the founding fathers say that US is NOT a religion-based country? Have Americans become Islamophobes? What are all the Islamic Americans thinking now? Are they sad that being a 'muslim' is a slur these days? Being from India, I am used to the radical views of other religious groups against Islam but I could never understand how being a Muslim could cause someone to be looked down upon, or be less qualified for something. Is it because the people who brought the WTC down on 9-11 were muslims? Does that mean we should hate Christians because of the crusades they waged against the other religions? Does that mean we can hate each other just because we were hurt by someone who happened to be of the same religion?

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