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Muslims In America

The flap over whether Obama misspoke the other day when he said the U.S. could be considered "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world" really should go away now that he's given his speech in Cairo--in which he boasted about the large number* of Muslims living (and, in many instances, thriving) within our borders. I thought Obama's mention of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison was especially interesting:

And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library.

This, of course, led some conservatives to denounce Ellison--Dennis Prager claimed the Minnesota Democrat's decision to use the Koran for his swearing-in was "undermin[ing] American civilization"--and, during the presidential campaign, Obama himself kept a studied distance from Ellison. But it's hard to deny the symbolic power of Ellison's election, and it's good to see Obama using it to his--and his country's--advantage.

Granted, it's nothing new for an American president to boast of the number of Muslims living in America. Consider this bit of speechifying:

America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads.

That was George W. Bush, speaking at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. six days after the 9/11 attacks. Maybe the fact that Obama has taken this familiar message to an unfamiliar place will make a difference.

* -- In Obama's speech, he said there were 7 million Muslims in America. Alas, there really is no definitive population count that I know of.

--Jason Zengerle