Obama not Muslim, not that it matters

By Paul Cruse III

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”- First Amendment.

The Second Continental Congress recognized the religious persecution their forefathers dealt with while in Europe and made it their top priority to secure religious freedom for all Americans. With the proclamation of these words, they hoped to spread an attitude of tolerance that would act as a social norm: to not judge someone on the basis on their beliefs. Two hundred and thirty years later, we are losing focus of that goal. The media have been constantly berating presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama over allegations of being secretly Muslim despite being a practicing Christian who regularly attends the United Church of Christ, located in downtown Chicago.

These allegations started when people discovered the Illinois senator’s middle name was Hussein. Named after his father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., his name does not reflect some past Muslim upbringing. In his book “Dreams of My Father,” he tells how his father was an atheist when he entered into the United States. Furthermore, his white Christian mother raised him when his father left them when he was 2 years old.

Then a second wave of allegations erupted after it was learned that he had spent time in Indonesia as a child. Sen. Obama lived in Indonesia from the ages of 6 to 9. While there, he attended a local school where most of the student body practiced Islam. Due to the school’s demographics it was labeled a madrassa (a strict orthodox school that is blamed by the West for producing Islamic extremists). Later, CNN reported that the suspected madrassa was a very Western, secular school and one that other Christian children attended as well. The school did have optional weekly religion classes, but there were separate classes for Christians as well.

Now the senator is being attacked once more due to pictures of him in a turban during a diplomatic visit to Kenya in 2006. The Somali garb he wore over his Western clothing was cultural in nature, not religious. The elder leader Mohammed Hassan Mumin who presented the clothes to the senator said, “(If President Bush came), I could have dressed him the same way.”

The obsession we have with his religion is frivolous and trivial. Though the senator is a Christian, would it really matter if he were a Muslim? Does it matter that he is a Christian? This focus and the discussion that follows only reveals another American hypocrisy. We were all told that religion (or lack of) is the personal choice of that individual, but we are quick to pass judgment on anyone who is not a member of the Judeo-Christian majority.

Like most things, we disregard people’s individual characteristics in favor of stereotypes. When some Americans think of Muslims, they immediately think of hijab-wearing, bomb-vest-toting, suicidal terrorists. Yes, there are some Muslim terrorists, but there are also Christian terrorists who were plaguing American long before 9/11. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan have terrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews, the Irish, Asians, Latinos and many other marginalized groups. In addition, like Muslim terrorists, they have claimed tens of thousands of lives with their attacks.

Muslims are no different from Christians in respect to their own individual ideals. Just like there are many different types of Christians, there are just as many types of Muslims. Some are traditional, some are liberal, some are practicing, some are not, some are adaptive, others are orthodox, but even those that are orthodox do not necessarily agree with all other orthodox Muslims.

Our state is supposed to be secular and we are supposed to respect others’ freedom to practice and not be shocked when we discover our differences. We as Americans need to start practicing what we preach.

Paul is a junior in computer and political science and thinks it’s more important for a politician to believe in health care than Jesus.