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Posted by on Jun 3, 2009 in Politics | 32 comments

Obama’s ‘Muslim Country’ Remark: Knock Off the Handwringing


I am but shouldn’t be surprised by the swift, largely unified right-wing reaction (a sampling) to President Obama’s remark during an interview with a French television station:

“And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” Mr. Obama said. “And so there’s got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”

Sure, the president might have stretched it a bit: a quick survey of commenting sites suggests the US ranks somewhere among the top 30 or so countries in terms of Muslim population. Not top 5 or top 10. But top 30; maybe top 35.

Then again, maybe he didn’t stretch it: In a world with 190-plus countries, we’d be (at #30) in the top 15% — i.e., we would have a Muslim population larger than 85% of the world’s nation states.

I’m all for calling the President’s bluff, when it’s deserved. I did so yesterday, pointing to a post at Donklephant, wherein Alan Stewart Carl essentially argued that, since Obama let politics (rather than judicial qualifications) dominate his commentary and vote on John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court, he basically has nothing to complain about if certain Republicans let politics (rather than judicial qualifications) dominate their commentary (and eventually their votes) on Sonia Sotomayor.

But in this case — with respect to Obama’s “Muslim country” remark — I think it’s fair to argue that the feigned bluff-calling from the right wing is entirely out of line. In his interview with French TV, the President made what seems to be a sincere effort, flawed or not, to point out to the Muslim world that the U.S. has a large Muslim population and thus a foundation for seeking a better, more productive, more constructive relationship with Muslim populations elsewhere. Seriously: What is the problem with that? Do rightwingers not want to build bridges between the U.S. and Muslim worlds? Would they prefer no effort be made to improve this already strained relationship?

Perhaps we know the answers.