Underlying prejudices against Muslims

“The degree of open prejudice is frightening. Web sites and the radical right at times are almost hysterical in the conspiracy theories they concoct around the presidential race and specifically around Barack Obama. But it isn’t just the bigotry of the fringe groups that is disturbing. It’s also the way prejudicial assumptions have slipped into the mainstream. Alarmists fantasize that Obama is a Muslim, and in discussing the outlandish rumor, we all refer to it more or less as a charge: Obama denied the charge that he is a Muslim.

“That choice of words suggests there would be something wrong with it if he was. And that’s the real problem. Good people are failing to recognize and correct their own prejudices. Even Obama falls short on this. Asked about the rumors, he merely denies them: ‘I’m not and never have been of the Muslim faith.’ That denial, spoken that way, reaffirms the prejudice.

“We concede that yes, in America in 2008, being identified as a Muslim is a political handicap, and so there’s only so much we can expect from Obama, who is after all a politician. But he is someone who wants to lead us and who professes an interest in bringing us all together. It is not too much to ask that he add a few words to his denial: ‘But keep in mind, being a Muslim is not something anyone should need to hide. Muslims are our neighbors. They are people who live in our communities, too, and we need to fight prejudice of all kinds’.”

Editorial in the Chicago Daily Herald, 22 May 2008