President Obama is visiting Turkey, which looks to be the occasion of his promised “major address” in a muslim-majority country. In some sense it’s a “safe” choice, as Turkey is seeking EU membership and clearly is trying to position itself between the western and islamic worlds. I think that a major address in Cairo would have been far more significant, especially in building credibility amongst the muslim masses for Obama’s rhetoric about respect and engagement with the muslim world. Maybe next time.
In stark contrast to the President’s agenda, however, is the astonishing finding by ABC News’ poll (PDF) that finds 48% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion towards Islam, the highest since 2001. 29% believe that mainstream Islam encourages violence towards non-believers (a point of view that is internalized as dogma in the Republican Party especially).
That’s not all, though. Another poll by the Pew Center finds that 10% still believe Obama is a muslim! That’s the same level as during the campaign. This really speaks to the existence of a basal level of Islamophobia in the population at large, for the muslim smear to have such staying power this long (and in the face of such obvious and overwhelming evidence to the contrary).