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The Obama Campaign And Muslim-americans

Today's New York Times front page story on Barack Obama and the Muslim community is an extremely depressing read. Here is the opening anecdote:

As Senator Barack Obama courted voters in Iowa last December, Representative Keith Ellison, the country’s first Muslim congressman, stepped forward eagerly to help.

Mr. Ellison believed that Mr. Obama’s message of unity resonated deeply with American Muslims. He volunteered to speak on Mr. Obama’s behalf at a mosque in Cedar Rapids, one of the nation’s oldest Muslim enclaves. But before the rally could take place, aides to Mr. Obama asked Mr. Ellison to cancel the trip because it might stir controversy. Another aide appeared at Mr. Ellison’s Washington office to explain.

“I will never forget the quote,” Mr. Ellison said, leaning forward in his chair as he recalled the aide’s words. “He said, ‘We have a very tightly wrapped message.’ ”

Now try and picture this occurring with, say, a Jewish or Catholic Congressman--the outcry would be absolutely enormous. However, the article makes clear that this sort of pasive bigotry is all too common.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign needs to figure out a better way to deal with this issue, which it seems to view only through the narrow prism of self-interest. Not that this makes much sense: An event with Keith Ellison, or some women in headscarves standing behind the candidate at a rally, is not going to cost Obama the election. The piece's closing anecdote would be funnier if it did not have a ring of truth to it:

As a consequence, many Muslims have kept their support for Mr. Obama quiet. Any visible show of allegiance could be used by his opponents to incite fear, further the false rumors about his faith and “bin-Laden him,” Mr. Bray said.

“The joke within the national Muslim organizations,” Ms. Ghori said, “is that we should endorse the person we don’t want to win.”

--Isaac Chotiner