This past Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was being interviewed on Meet the Press. Responding to a poll showing that a growing percentage of the American populace believes that the president is a Muslim, McConnell asserted, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word.” Then, David Gregory, the host of the program, egged McConnell on, asking him where he thought rumors like this come from, thus prolonging the conversation about the president’s faith.
Just two days earlier, an Iowan RNC member named Kim Lehman tweeted the following, in response to a statement that defended the soundness of President Obama’s Christian faith:
“BTW he personally told the muslims that he IS a muslim.”
She was referring to the speech Obama had given in Cairo last year. Later, when she was asked about why she didn’t believe the fact-based indications that point to Obama’s Christian faith, Lehman said decisively, “He would have said I‘m a Christian and I’m from the Christian religion and we can work together. It didn’t appear to me he said Christianity was part of his religion.”
This is what the President said in his speech in Cairo to the international Muslim community:
“Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims.”
My concern is not the ignorance of the RNC Committeewoman, nor is it the Right’s fervent creativity in generating one of the greatest pieces of political fiction in American history– although my view is that those would both be valid concerns.
My concern is the following: Millions of Americans, dozens of members of the House, and several United States senators– some of the most powerful and influential people in the country– are undeniably implying that there’s something wrong with being a Muslim; that there’s something fundamentally immoral or erroneous about being a member of the Islamic faith; believing and studying the Qur’an. And the media (people like David Gregory, among colleagues) nurtures that concept.
The president is not a Muslim. But what if he were? What then? Imagine that there was a movement to prove that Obama didn’t actually like to play basketball, and people went searching around for any tidbit of evidence– in or out of context– that Barack Obama had been lying to us, and that he actually liked playing soccer. That’s what this is.
What troubles me about this is not that they’re lying or spreading rumors– none of that is new or surprising. It’s their straightforward suggestion that being Muslim is somehow not okay. There is nothing wrong with being a Muslim, and the constant fixation on Obama’s faith is sickening. Imagine if there were massive protests, movements of people claiming that “the president is Jewish!” or during a future presidency, “the president is an Christian!” So what? In this country, there is supposedly a separation between church and state, yielding the following conclusion: Who cares if he believes in Allah or Jesus, Mohammad or Matthew, eats bacon or avoids it? Why does it affect you? It doesn’t. So please, mind your own business, and criticize other peoples’ political beliefs, not their religious ones.