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'Secret Muslims,' Open Bigotry:

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    Islamophobia in the 2008 presidential campaign Secret Muslims, Open Bigotry http://www.smearcasting.com/case_secret.html In the 1990 Polish elections a
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2008
      Islamophobia in the 2008 presidential campaign

      'Secret Muslims,' Open Bigotry

      In the 1990 Polish elections a whispering campaign suggesting Polish
      Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a Roman Catholic, was a "secret
      Jew" attracted widespread attention in the U.S. press, as did a
      nearly identical rumor about the leading challenger in Poland's 1995
      election. In no uncertain terms, U.S. news reports called the
      rumors "ugly examples" (Washington Post, 12/31/90) of
      the "increasingly visible expressions of anti-Semitism" (New York
      Times, 1/21/91), the most notable such "anti-Semitic acts" in Poland
      (Washington Post, 7/8/95).

      U.S. media rejoiced that such religious intolerance did not
      characterize Americans, as an Atlanta Journal Constitution op-ed
      explained (5/23/91) :

      For all the current debate over diversity in American culture, it's
      important to recognize how thoroughly imbued we are with this
      classically liberal view of citizenship. We do not divide ourselves
      into "true ethnic Americans" and those of other "nations." People of
      all races, religions and national origins are, we believe, fully
      entitled to the name American.

      Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (11/16/90) explained the
      persistence of the false rumor that the Polish candidate was secretly
      a Jew as an expression of "Poland's peculiar cultural virus,"
      remarking, "What are facts when contrasted with prejudice?" Cohen
      described such an affair as a measure of "a country's moral
      temperature, of gauging its character and its ability to deal
      rationally with its problems instead of setting off down the road,
      club in hand, in the search for scapegoats."

      It seems Poland's "cultural virus" is not that peculiar. Despite the
      self-congratulatory words, the American campaign of 2008, like Poland
      in 1990, has seen Democratic candidate Barack Obama targeted by a
      relentless campaign suggesting he is a member of a religious minority-
      -not a secret Jew, but a secret Muslim.

      Beyond a whisper campaign, the targeting of Obama is happening in the
      open--in online magazines (Insight, 1/17/07; Human Events, 3/20/07;
      FrontPageMag.com, 1/7/08), on right-wing talk radio shows (Rush
      Limbaugh, 1/19/08; Savage Nation, 9/8/08), even in hardcover (Jerome
      Corsi's Obama Nation, published by CBS's Simon & Schuster in 2008).
      Those calling Obama a Muslim clearly see the term as a pejorative and
      have a sense that the "charge" will resonate with their audiences and
      with a significant slice of the American electorate.

      So far, it seems as though they may be on to something. A Pew
      Research Center poll (6/18=29/08; reported 7/15/08) found that twelve
      percent of both Democrats and Republicans reported having the
      erroneous belief, while 10 percent of all voters profess to not
      knowing his religion because they've "heard different things" about
      it. Fifty-two percent of respondents who knew Obama was a Christian
      intended to vote for him, versus 37 percent of those who mistakenly
      believed he was Muslim.

      But with few exceptions, media have not reacted nearly as forcefully
      to the bigotry behind the rumor campaign on their own turf as they
      did when the tactic was tried in Poland. Instead, journalists often
      accepted the idea that there was something suspicious or bad about
      being Muslim by referring to the canard as a "smear" (New York Times,
      1/17/08; ABC News, 12/5/07), an "unsubstantiated charge" (Washington
      Post, 6/28/08), or an example of "nasty and false attacks" (New York
      Times, 1/17/08).

      For NPR's Alison Stewart (Bryant Park Project, 1/29/08), the rumor
      that Obama had attended an Islamic school as a child in
      Indonesia "sounded like a page out of the Lyndon Johnson smear of
      Barry Goldwater in 1964." Stewart was referring to Johnson's 1964 TV
      campaign ad suggesting that President Goldwater would launch a
      nuclear war. In other words, according to Stewart's analogy, the
      suggestion that you attended an Islamic school is tantamount to the
      claim that you are likely to blow up the planet.

      While the Post's Cohen devoted two entire columns to Obama's "pastor
      problem"--first (1/15/08) asking where Obama's "sense of outrage" was
      over his pastor Jeremiah Wright's "praise for an anti-Semitic
      demagogue" (Louis Farrakhan), and then, after Obama denounced
      Farrakhan's comments, asking (3/18/08) why it took so long--he has
      given the anti-Muslim rumor campaign against Obama a mere two
      sentences (4/22/08, 7/1/08).

      In this context, it's not surprising that the number of Muslims
      running for political office in the U.S. is declining from its
      already small number, according to the American Muslim Alliance
      (Chicago Tribune, 6/30/06). In 2000, some 700 Muslims (out of a
      population of more than 2 million--Pew, 5/22/07) ran for office in
      the U.S.--a figure that plummeted 90 percent to just 70 in 2002, and
      had only crept up to 100 by 2004.

      With the Islamophobic premise behind the rumor campaign is going
      largely unquestioned, Muslims have been repeatedly shunned in the
      2008 race. One glaring example was at a campaign event in Detroit
      where Obama staff took two women wearing hijabs, traditional head
      scarves, out of the view of TV cameras--a clear message, as one of
      the women put it (Politico, 6/18/08), that "they do not want him
      associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters." (The Obama campaign
      later apologized for relocating the women.)

      Later that month, the Obama campaign started a website called "Fight
      the Smears'' to, "among other things, debunk portrayals of Obama as a
      Muslim" (International Herald Tribune, 6/30/08). Just a month later,
      a website (Muslim Brotherhood Watch, 7/31/08, 8/1/08) alleged that
      Obama's Muslim Outreach Coordinator Mazen Asbahi's past involvement
      with the Ann Arbor Muslim Students Association, and his serving on
      the board of an Islamic trust--a role he had held for a few weeks
      eight years earlier--constituted ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
      Shortly after this online "exposé," the Wall Street Journal (8/6/08)
      pointed out that an imam who was a past member of the Islamic trust
      board had been charged in a State Department investigation of alleged
      racketeering and fundraising for Hamas, a case that ended in a
      mistrial. Asbahi had resigned from the board after hearing of the
      charges against his fellow board member, yet this tenuous association
      was enough to prompt Asbahi to resign from the Obama campaign in
      anticipation of the distraction the media coverage would create.

      Much has been made in the media about the unknown origins of some of
      the anti-Muslim rumors about Obama. The Washington Post (6/28/08),
      for instance, published a lengthy investigation of these email rumors
      under the headline "An Attack That Came Out of the Ether," and CNN's
      Joe Johns (CNN Newsroom, 7/15/08) has described the rumors that Obama
      is a Muslim as originating from "the dark side of the Internet."

      Islamophobia in the current election cycle may have started in "the
      ether," but the record shows it has run into too little resistance
      from media and political elites, who have done too little to reject
      it, and in some cases served to advance it.

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