I haven’t posted in quite awhile. I’ve been working on a sociocultural theory about Islam, and finally ran into a brick wall behind which lies the data I need to prove and refine the theory. I can’t get at it, because I don’t have the proper bona fides. I don’t mean the right degrees, but the “correct” bias. I might lead people away from the multicultural light.
So I haven’t been paying all that much attention to the electoral contest. This, even though I did my dissertation on elections. And then this irritating fellow on a forum I visit started posting links to right wing websites with outrageous claims that Barack Obama was some sort of occulted Muslim. Now that’s a romantic notion, but the claims weren’t very specific so they often couldn’t be vetted, and I just figured it to be a smear. Besides, Americans wouldn’t care if he were nominally designated a Muslim while he was forming elephants out of play doh anyway. To us, you aren’t anything until you’ve made a conscientious considered uncoerced choice. So I figured this would blow over quickly, and the real issue would be that he sat in First Trinity's pews for twenty years, apparently stone deaf.
But, I might have been a little hasty. Rick Moran has a pretty good article on the topic, up at PJ Media: The Smear That Just Won’t Die. He debunks most of the myths. Here’s an excerpt:
There is a very soft, very sensitive spot on the underbelly of the Obama campaign. They fear its exposure perhaps more than any other vulnerability in the organization. It’s not some dark, buried scandal involving sex or money. It’s not a skeleton in either Barack or Michelle Obama’s family closet. In fact, it isn’t “real” in any logical sense at all.
It is a rumor — or, more prosaically, a smear. And touching on it brings out the teeth and claws of the Obama campaign beyond almost any other issue.Barack Hussein Obama is not a Muslim. But the smear saying he is refuses to die and, if anything, is growing as the campaign becomes more intense. Aside from the obvious desire to beat down a false rumor, there are eminently practical political reasons why even mentioning the smear is avoided at all costs.
At the time, the three main claims seemed to be that he’d “inherited” his Muslim status from his father. That was debunked by noting that his father was actually an atheist, and that he’d abandoned Obama. Even if the elder had been Muslim it wouldn’t have passed to the son once he’d been abandoned. The mother’s faith would. Secondly, Rick points out that Obama didn’t attend a Muslim school, or madrassa. He attended a Catholic school at one point, and a private nonsectarian school at another. Finally, a statement apparently made by his brother referring to Obama’s “Muslim past” was a misquote.
The only thing that bothered me, was a statement that Obama had apparently made in Dreams of My Father : “In Indonesia, I had spent two years at a Muslim school...In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Quranic studies.”
And according to another source, he apparently had been enrolled in some school in Jakarta as a Muslim, although it was a public school not a madrassa. Moreover, records identifying him as a Muslim could easily have been mistaken. I’ve perused a lot of school record files as an education researcher, and they’re often in pretty bad condition. Not very reliable.
According to a friend of mine more familiar with the way Catholic schools work, they accept people of other religions, but if you want religious instruction, in, say, Islam, they will allow you to arrange for, and pay for it yourself. They won’t provide it. So if he studied Islam while in Catholic or private nonsectarian school someone in the family made the arrangements and paid the bills. And I suppose a kid might have seen this as a “Muslim school.” Kids that age are often rather imprecise with such observations.
But the point here is that there does seem to be some link to having been a Muslim, and/or having attended Koranic Studies, even if it was a mistake of some sort. The “smears” are based on some things that actually happened, and on words Obama actually said.
And that’s the rub.
Again, I don’t think Americans care whether he thought he was Muslim at that age or not. I don’t think we care who thought he was a Muslim, or didn’t think so. The point is that Obama is hunkered down, and won’t come out to directly address and explain this stuff. He appears to be scared to death of the mere mention of it.
He also made a statement in another book, Audacity of Hope, that’s a little edgy: "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction." But again, that could simply mean that he won’t stand for persecution of Muslims, or internment as we did the Japanese.
So neither of these revelations, even if completely true, are deal breakers. Indeed, I suspect that about 40% of Americans are ready to vote for Obama even if he were filmed by ABC News bludgeoning puppies to death with a sledge hammer, while laughing hysterically. But what is, and will, hurt him is ducking and refusing to directly address the issue in a transparent way. The facts haven’t been invented. They just haven’t been explained. Not doing so forthrightly reinforces the awareness that he’s hiding, that he’s wearing a mask, and that he doesn’t give any peeks until all else has been lost. And he just doesn’t have that luxury. He doesn’t have the luxury of allowing a smear campaign to define him, not as a Muslim, but as a man who's something other than what we see. As a man who is hiding his true face. That's becoming a narrative.
So I don’t expect that his candidacy will take a nose dive. It’ll just gradually lose altitude, and he’ll end up landing on that solid 40% plateau, or perhaps a little higher. And people will only gradually be emboldened to speak about the issue, ultimately encouraged by his own words. These aren’t things people have said about Obama. They’re things Obama has said about himself. He can still get out from under, and reclaim the magic. But he doesn’t have much time. And there will be a point of no return, when he’s just irrevocably lost a lot of people who won’t come back. Ever.
By the way, I was once a Hindu, sort of. Well now you know.