First Published: 2008-10-29

 
The Muslim Boogeyman
 

If left unchecked, the suspicion and fear of Islam in the US can only become dangerously more pronounced, says Anouar Boukhars.

 

Middle East Online

The specter of Halloween is almost upon us but the boogeyman has already exploded onto the American political scene. Unlike other fictitious monsters, this year’s king of horror seems real. Rumors abound about his powers and evil motives. He is said to be lurching out of the shadows, biding his time for the opportune moment to strike at the God-fearing, hardworking, and family-oriented people of Middle America. His complexion is dark, his past is sordid, and his middle name is the same as the Arab/Muslim terrorists who want to harm America. For months, conservative talk-radio commentators, right-wing bloggers, and radical preachers have been warning about the ascent of this camouflaged false prophet, warning their millions of supporters not to be fooled by his celebrity status and oratorical powers. As the presidential campaign heated up in the last three weeks, John McCain joined the chorus and unleashed the charismatic and self-styled pitbull with lipstick, Sarah Palin, to name and shame the boogeyman for who he is. In one swing state after the other, governor Palin attacked Barack Hussein Obama’s character and integrity, accusing him of palling around with terrorists and hating America.

Her surrogates and introducers in her rallies warned in even starkest terms about the frightening specter that awaits America if Obama is elected. "Think about how you'll feel on November 5 if you wake up in the morning and see the news, that Barack Obama -- Barack Hussein Obama -- is the president-elect of the United States," warned Lehigh County GOP Chairman Bill Platt. Peoples’ stoked fears of Obama finally exploded into the open at several of Palin’s rallies. The most recent example was captured by al-Jazeera English’ reporter Casey Kauffman and posted on Youtube. The clip shows some of the rally attendees in Ohio voicing their fear of Obama, describing him as a secret Muslim Manchurian candidate who will destroy America. These and other incidents in which a minority of Palin/McCain supporters shouted racial epithets and slurs demonstrated how the most egregious of lies can harden and become reality. The fact that Obama has been fighting hard against these attempts to label him as a cover Muslim or Arab demonstrates the potency of anti-Islamic sentiment in America. In reality, Obama is a proud Christian and so is his wife and children but his detractors have tapped into the magic well of public fear of Islam and suspicion of American Muslims.

This fear was memorably captured in a McCain rally when a woman in her seventies genuinely expressed her apprehension of Obama “the Arab”. McCain himself quickly intervened to reassure her that his opponent is no Arab but a 'decent family man'. The media, political commentators, and many others praised the republican nominee for publicly vouching for Obama’s non-Arabness. McCain, of course, deserves credit for debunking one of the many myths about Obama but his response was unsettling. Watching this whole incident play over and over again in television was probably one of the most agonizing moments for any Arab or Muslim American to witness during this long and brutal presidential campaign. With the notable exceptions of John Stewart of the "Daily Show", Brown Campbell of CNN, and few commentators in MSNBC, nobody reprimanded McCain for, perhaps unintentionally, implying that Arabs are not decent people.

For several months, Arabs (Christians and Muslims) have had to powerlessly watch and listen to their religion and / or ethnicity being equated with terrorism and evil. Islam has become a favorite punching bag and a powerful political weapon to smear one’s opponent and scare the public of a Muslim takeover of the US. In the past month alone, twenty-eight million copies of the anti-Muslim propaganda film 'Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West' were delivered in direct mail in a number of swing states. What was stunning about this latest campaign to link Islam and terrorism was how its producers managed to get their propaganda delivered in Americans' daily newspapers as a paid advertising supplement. This "free gift" from trusted newspapers gave legitimacy and weight to a documentary that many informed commentators called inflammatory, fear-mongering and divisive.

These attempts to demonize Islam have only deepened the level of distrust between the American Muslim communities and the American society at large. A number of surveys have shown that a significant number of Americans admit to being preoccupied with anything Muslim that they would feel uncomfortable living in districts populated by Muslims. If left unchecked, the suspicion and fear of Islam can only become dangerously more pronounced. This is why Colin Powell’s recent defense of American Muslims and Arabs was so much welcomed and needed. The former Secretary of State is one of the few authoritative figures in American public life to say publicly what many others failed or hesitated to say: That American Muslims like Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan who died fighting for America in Iraq share the same values, outlook and attitudes as the rest of society. For every Joe the Plumber, there is Mohammed the soldier (Out of the US military's 1.4 million troops, 3,700 are Muslims), teacher, doctor, lawyer and janitor. The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans, as the 2007 Pew study found, are “largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”

Anouar Boukhars is assistant professor of political science and director of the Center for Defense and Security Policy at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

 

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman

From bikini to Jihad in Ceuta, Melilla

Tunisia votes Sunday in second round of presidential poll

Islamist militias launch air strike near key Libyan oil terminals

Egypt refers 312 Islamists to military courts

Turkey rejects EU criticism over media arrests

Kerry meets chief Palestinian negotiator

Saudi cleric sparks uproar for showing wife’s face

15,000 march against country’s ‘Islamisation’ in eastern Germany

Key oil producers face uncertain outlook in 2015

Gulf stock markets tumble

Australia mourns Sydney cafe siege victims

Hostages flee as police storm Sydney café

Erdogan to EU: Mind your own business!

Syria PM in Iran for talks with key ally

22 Swiss jihadists fighting abroad

#illridewithyou: Australians stand in solidarity with Muslims

Sydney siege 'lone wolf' or IS-led attack?

EU support UN efforts for Aleppo ceasefire

Saudi policeman killed in Riyadh hostage-taking

Saudi king receives Jordan monarch

Palestinians push UN bid to end Israeli occupation