Friday, August 20, 2010


(attribution unknown, AP)

Over on Forever in Hell there's been an interesting discussion of the fact that nearly one in five Americans now thinks that Barack Obama is a Muslim. This, along with the ongoing battle over Park 51, and the planned "Burn a Quran" day in Gainesville, FL (so proud to be a Floridian, yet again, am I!) all point in the direction of the need to have someone to blame, to hate, against whom to be prejudiced. Muslims are those 9/11 people. They're the new post-Pearl Harbor Japanese or civil-rights-demanding black people, right? Is being Muslim the new ugly epithet? Now that we can't assail Obama for 'secretly' being African-American (hey, he checked it on the census, right? OMQF, we elected a black president!? I knew it! I just knew it!!!) we can start saying that he's secretly Muslim? 

Like being Muslim is such a bad thing? 

I have had an interesting day in which the sister of a friend said she thought Obama was Muslim (she appears to be a Cuban Republican). She looked aghast (though too polite to comment) when I said I thought he's really an atheist and had claimed his friend's church in order to have some tie to a faith to suit narrow-minded Americans and that I really thought it would have been better to just come out and say he's an atheist like Julia Gillard in Australia because then we could leave off with going after purported Muslims in elected office. (And there was that whole business about how I'm an atheist and I really feel I don't need hell, damnation and a fearsome God to get me to do the right thing, be moral and feel like I'm an okay human being or have hope for my future and all. That really left her looking stricken...) 

Anyway, fast-forward to stopping at a gas station to get a bottle of water after working out and what do I see? People watching a TV report on how many people think Obama is a Muslim. Two guys standing there in front of the cashier guy, who is either Indian or Pakistani or maybe Sri Lankan, I really couldn't say which. The two guys started arguing about how Obama is really a Muslim. (Arguing as in he was all along but what else he's lying about.) So I asked, prefacing my comment with the fact that Obama's said he's Christian, and attended a Christian church on a semi-regular basis, what would be so wrong with being Muslim if he really was one? That over a billion people were Muslim and were they all so very wrong? This got a bitten-lip look from the Indian sub-continent cashier and a look of stunned horror from the two gentleman arguing. The older guy, probably my age (49 on Tuesday) really seemed upset and annoyed. And maybe appalled. Like he didn't really know they were so very numerous.

He turned to me and asked if I was kidding.

Those who know me personally are probably not surprised that I pressed on.

"No, I'm not kidding. It's something like 1.6 billion people if I recall correctly. Although I guess a lot aren't observant, just like there are a lot of inobservant Jewish and Christian people, right? How often do you go to church, or your friend? But anyway, it's like almost one in four on the planet. So, really, odds alone would favor having a Muslim president at some point right? But this guy, Obama? He says he's Christian. I don't even think it matters, though. All religions are just trying to get you to behave yourself."

After some very amusing eye-contact with the cashier, I paid for my water and left the stunned and silent men behind. 

My husband is seriously worried someone is going to go after me one of these days.

But Personal Failure's post, all the comments, all the media and these encounters with real people leave me wondering, like PF suggests, if Muslim is the new mean epithet and it leaves me, in particular, with lingering disturbed feelings about what it means that America, my country, just seems to need to have people to hate. 

Be they gays, Muslims or immigrants, it just seems as if there is so little tolerance in our American world. Make no mistake- I have said highly critical things about some aspects of Islamic jurisprudence. Sharia law that counts a woman's testimony, and therefore worth, at half that of a man, or employs hadith that proscribes stoning for adultery or even the lashes with a whip that the Quran itself suggests, is really offensive to me. But not for a minute do I think that every Muslim subscribes to these punishments or the beliefs that founded them. Not for a minute would I assume that just because someone is a Muslim they are reading an evil book called the Quran, which is what Pastor Terry Jones thinks, or that anything is wrong with them at all until they have actually done wrong. Reading the Quran isn't wrong. It's part of a person's rights in this country. (Just don't ask Dr. Laura and Sarah Palin to go over any amendments with you, okay?) Pastor Jones's ignorance alone, by the way, is just stunning, since much of what he complains about isn't even in the Quran, but is rather, hadith.

I debate with the other Comtesses about whether or not we are headed for political disaster and ignorance a la ignorant leadership like that potentially led by Sarah Palin, who clearly doesn't even have a clue about what the First Amendment really means. (You get to say what you want Sarah and Dr. Laura. I get to say I don't want to listen to you and turn off your commentary. If others follow suit, your audience volume drops, you lose your programming time. Voilà. C'est la vie. Mais non- c'est la First Frickin' Amendment, ladies!)

But mostly these days, I have to say that I look at the hard economic times and all the anger about immigrants and wrong headed (in my view) people wanting to change the 14th Amendment (Garry, help me here!!!), the opposition to building a community center for practitioners of a particular faith, and think that really, with all the venom additionally being spewed on practitioners of that particular faith (Islam) and gay people, we are not so different from Germany in the 1930's.

The thought makes me tremble.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


  1. What you said Marzie. Every word of it.

  2. Yes, but at least he's an UPPITY Muslim. worries.

  3. Oh my gosh, I'm going to mention it AGAIN: do not read the book on Prohibition I'm reading right now, unless you want to get totally depressed in the confirmation of your "this country always has to have something inside it to hate" theory.

    Really, we're so very seriously stuck on Repeat.

  4. Since we are tribal it's critical to our survival as cavemen, and we have not evolved fast enough to keep up with current societal needs and pressures. How can there be an "us" without a "them"?

    "Piety is the mask; the inner force is tribal instinct."