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Posted by on Oct 14, 2008 in At TMV | 7 comments

“So What If Obama Were a Muslim or Arab?”

I’ve got to say, Campbell Brown has impressed me with her willingness to say what other journalists have only been thinking this election season. First, she called out the McCain campaign for shielding Palin from the press “like a delicate flower who will wilt at any moment.” And her latest commentary addresses the bigotry against Arabs and Muslims popping up at McCain rallies.

Last week a supporter told McCain she didn’t trust Obama because he was an Arab, to which McCain replied, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not, thank you.”

Brown retorts:

Now, I commend Sen. McCain for correcting that woman, for setting the record straight. But I do have one question — so what if he was?

So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter?

When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

We’ve all been too quick to accept the idea that calling someone Muslim is a slur. We can’t tolerate this ignorance — not in the media, not on the campaign trail.

Few have been willing to address that issue directly, and as a consequence, slurring Muslims/Arabs has become an acceptable shield for racists who would never have voted for Obama in the first place. Racism against African Americans has become so taboo that most genuine racists are afraid express themselves in public. But slurring people from the Middle East? Well, hell, we’re at war and all. Nothing wrong with standing up in front of a large crowd with a microphone and spewing hatred for “those people,” right?

I can understand why this is a sensitive issue in a post-9/11 world. But kudos to Brown for calling a spade a spade. Let’s hope Obama follows suit. His response to accusations like this typically isn’t much different from McCain’s. He reassures voters that, no, he’s not a Muslim; he’s just a decent family man. For once it would be nice to hear him respond along the lines of, “So what if I was?”

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  • DLS

    He’d be right at home here in Detroit metro. While Los Angeles normally has the largest or most important immigrant community from anywhere you can think of, it is Detroit metro that has the largest Arab-American community, of long standing, long before 9-11 to make a great understatement. It’s why when launching the war in Iraq, Wolfowitz (among the neocons who were the most convinced this was the right thing to do for the region as well as for Iraq) came promptly to Detroit metro to address the crowds there. (“Dearbornistan” as the critics might call the town of note.)

  • petef

    I hesitate to put information out that I can’t substantiate with a link, but the last time I saw Obama asked about this on TV (probably CNN), he followed up with a comment that people need to remember that this kind of attempt to portray him as a Muslim is derogatory towards Muslims as well, because the idea that being a Muslim is a bad thing is insulting. Not as forceful as Brown, perhaps, but I was still glad to hear it.

  • Marsh

    Yes, we should all thank Campbell. Along with some help from others in the mainstream media and blogworld, she’s managed to out a subversive 75 year old racist white woman who’s now had her name, phone number and address published for the sole purpose of having people tell her how they feel. Bravo indeed.

  • JSpencer

    Well, compared to how much flak Obama gets when he is a Christian I can only imagine the crap that would hit the fan if he was Muslim. The angry, frothing sort of fools who show up at Palin rallies would be having coronaries. Good for Campbell Brown for bringing this important subject up and good for you too Elyas. Many of the Arab-Americans in Dearborn DLS mentions could tell stories about how much they were targeted by idiots in the wake of 9-11 – for the crime of being the wrong ethnicity.

  • lyndat

    This post is a great example of dog whistle racism in today’s politics. And there are so many more!

    We’re tracking political race baiting at We find the good, bad and ugly from the right, left and center about race in the race. Visit us today for a non-partisan take on the race card, and the race card card, in today’s politics.

    Hope to see you at StopDog!

  • DLS

    Hey, it wasn’t restricted to Detroit. Remember that in Phoenix (another place I’ve lived and let’s just say it’s not surprising) a Sikh was murdered in retaliation for 9-11. Any rag on the head is bad, right?

    I honestly feel sympathetic toward the Arab-Americans here in Detroit (whose history goes all the way back to original US large-scale urbanization and industrialization) even though some idiots there have held pro-Hizballah rallies.

  • JSpencer

    DLS, I wasn’t picking on Detroit, actually I have some pretty good memories there, and honed my driving skills ramming up and down Woodward Ave. back in the early 80s.

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