Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America."I don't feel this needs much explanation. It was basically everything I had wanted to say since I heard these rumours circulating. It is worth posting the image Powell was referring to though, one which is incredibly powerful. It's also worth noting that figures from both the CIA and adherents.com put the number of Muslims in the United States at just under 2 million - not an insignificant number. Indeed according to wikipedia there are 15 states with either similar or smaller populations, and the three states with populations between 1.5 and 2 million each have 3 seats in Congress and 5 electoral college votes.
"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."
Obama's campaign has been praised in breaking new ground in racial issues, with him being described as a post-racial candidate. This has been an issue which has dominated the last half century in American politics. Is the next issue going to be religion? One of my favourite moments from the Santos-Vinick election race in the West Wing is where Vinick says at a news conference
"I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government. And I want to warn everyone in the press and all the voters out there if you demand expressions of religious faith from politicians, you are just begging to be lied to. They won't all lie to you but a lot of them will. And it will be the easiest lie they ever had to tell to get your votes. So, every day until the end of this campaign, I'll answer any question anyone has on government, But if you have a question on religion, please go to church."Let's hope that this is another case where the West Wing has been a precursor to the actual event in American politics. Someones religion can tell us a lot about them, but it can also play a lot to our prejudices. I don't think politicians should completely hide their religous views (indeed if their faith has any importance to them it would be extremely hard to do so), but I do think we need to consider those views properly. Otherwise we can be in danger of branding them with our prejudices about their religion - whether they are Muslim, evangelical Christian or, dare I say, Presbyterian.