A Very Telling Gaffe


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

A gaffe by a Rick Santorum staffer says a lot. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday, spokeswoman Alice Stewart said:

There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has.

She quickly called MSNBC after the segment and said she misspoke, actually meaning “radical environmental policies.”

Ohhhh, I see! She meant environmental rather than Islamic.

This makes me wonder about a couple of things: first, does the spokeswoman’s slip mean that – deep down – she thinks that President Obama really is a “secret Muslim”? And second, is the association between “radical” and “Islamic” so ingrained, so natural, that it can easily slip out of one’s tongue? In either case, it makes me very sad.

It makes me very sad that still, in 2012, associating President Obama with Islam is used as a smear. It recently happened at a Rick Santorum campaign event, in fact, and Senator Santorum did not correct the person making the assertion. This is wrong. It is wrong to try to smear someone by wrongly accusing them of being Muslim (or Jewish, or Christian, or any other religious faith). We should have better respect for religious faith and choice than that.

It is equally sad that the association between “radical” and “Islamic,” it seems, has indeed become so natural. Yes, the Muslim worldwide community has its radical elements: but so does every other religious community. Yes, extremists who called themselves Muslims attacked the country on 9/11: but so did extremists who were Christians in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Yes, there are Muslims who have been caught plotting terrorist attacks, but as a recent study shows, their numbers are dwindling and the threat from American Muslims has been exaggerated.

I wish religion and religious faith would be taken out of politics and the Presidential campaign. Whatever religion we choose to profess: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, or no “-ism” at all, it should not matter. That is a personal choice, and we must all have respect for each other’s personal religious beliefs. That is what makes our country so wonderful: that we can live and work with people of all faiths in peace, harmony, and brotherhood.

It is the way that the Lord wanted us to live on earth, and so let us work to make His desire a reality.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/2012/02/a-very-telling-gaffe.html#ixzz1my7M7STD

A Political Fantasy


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

I know that, as the weeks and months pass during this year’s presidential campaign, that the issue of President Obama being a “secret Muslim” will come up again and again. It did so not that long ago at a Rick Santorum event (I swear I am not picking on Rick Santorum) during the campaign. A woman asked that, since the President was an “avowed Muslim”: “Why isn’t something being done to get him out of the government. He has no legal right to be calling himself president.”

Rather than correcting her, he sheepishly said: “Yeah, I’m doing my best to try to get him out of the government.”

Here is my fantasy; a daydream that I have almost on a daily basis:

At a campaign event somewhere, sometime in America: 

Candidate X takes a question from someone at his town hall meeting. 

“Yes, sir,” the Candidate says, pointing his finger to the person. 

“You know, this President Obama, is a fraud. He never should have been President. He wasn’t even born in this country, and he is an avowed Muslim…” 

“Uh, excuse me, sir. Let me stop you right there,” says Candidate X, who suddenly has a very serious look in his eyes. Staring right back at the questioner, the Candidate says: 

“First of all, President Obama was born in this country. I think that is clear. And, it is also clear that he is a Christian. He has said it on numerous occasions. But, more importantly, what if he was a Muslim? So what! Does being Muslim somehow disqualify someone from running for public office? From being an American?”

Several people in the crowd yell “Yes!”

Candidate X chimes in sternly: “The answer is no, folks. This is America. We are nation that believes in freedom of religion, the freedom to worship or not worship whatever you want. It is one of the things that makes this country as beautiful as it is. And if an American who happens to be a Muslim runs for public office, there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all.” 

Sigh. What a wonderful thing…if it were to ever come to pass. But, I’m not holding my breath…and I’m a lung doctor.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/2012/02/a-political-fantasy.html#ixzz1lGJ66SvC

Election 2012: A Rough Ride for American Muslims


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

This was published on my Patheos column.

The 2012 election year has finally come, and as already seen in Iowa, the presidential campaign is in full swing. On the Democratic side, there is no contest (but lots of concerns). But the Republican primary process has already given us a chilling glimpse into what is to come for American Muslims. Our faith and our status as Americans look to become an important part of the election.

Former Senator Rick Santorum, thrust into the spotlight by his surprise finish in Iowa, was asked in a debate about who should be profiled in this country: “Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at—I mean, obviously, it was—obviously, Muslims would be—would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are—the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve—by and large, as well as younger males.” And that’s just one example of what some Republican candidates are inferring and saying about Muslims. I would also be remiss if I did not mention Newt Gingrich and his incessant claims about the “threat” of “Sharia law” to our country.

These criticisms will only intensify as the months pass on the way to the November elections. Islam will be demonized, and Muslims will be more and more “otherized” and scapegoated. Just recently, state Rep. Judy Manning (R-GA) said of Mitt Romney, “I think Mitt Romney is a nice man, but I’m afraid of his Mormon faith. It’s better than a Muslim.”

Yup . . . hold on to your seats, folks, it’s going to be a rough ride for American Muslims.

I never cease to be baffled by comments like these. The truth about Islam and Muslims is so different than what is presented in the media to the minds of many Americans. The season of Jesus and his birth has just finished. Don’t our fellow Christian Americans realize how much Muslims love Jesus? Don’t they know how much of the Quran extols the virtues of Christ? Don’t they know the number of times Jesus (and his mother Mary) is mentioned in the Quran? I penned a piece about the Virgin Mary last December and gave it to a devout Catholic colleague. She was stunned at the beauty of the Quranic description of the both the birth of Mary and her son, Jesus. My brother-in-law gave it to his co-worker, and the reaction was the same.

It seems like our fellow Americans do not know how much our faith honors all of the Abrahamic prophets. Whether it is Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, David, or Solomon, they are all revered, and respected, and honored in our faith. It seems incredulous that I must re-state the fact that we Muslims worship the same God of the other Abrahamic faiths. “Allah” is simply the Arabic version of “God.” And, if Jesus were alive today, he would also call God “Allah.” Moreover, open up an Arabic Bible, the word for “God” is none other than “Allah.”

Most American Muslims are just like most other Americans: patriotic, country-loving citizens who work hard every single day to contribute to the greatness of this country. As the TLC show “All-American Muslim” showed, we are normal people like everyone else. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, football coaches, police officers, firefighters, and nurses. One of my closest friends, whom I consider to be a brother, was on the ground on 9/11 as a first-responder helping the injured on that horrible day.

Now, that fact doesn’t sit well with some Americans, as the Lowe’s advertising controversy with “All-American Muslim” showed. They would like to have everyone believe that the actions of criminals acting in Islam’s name speak for the whole of Islam and Muslims. But that doesn’t change the truth: Muslims are not the monsters that some make us out to be. Islam is the not the “evil” that some make it out to be.

And, to be fair, there are some in the GOP who have acknowledged as much. The most shining example is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (another Republican), who defended his appointment of a Muslim judge and called the hysteria about Sharia law “crap.” And New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is another politician (not a Republican) who has refused to join in the demonization of Muslims for political gain.

Since the forces of division will not stop trying to demonize Islam and Muslims, we must not stop telling the truth about our faith and our people. The election season may be rough for American Muslims, but in the end, all will be right and good. The forces of hatred will not win. That is because our country is a great nation, and our people are a great people.

Chicago Tribune: President’s Faith Should Not Matter


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

Once again, the separation of church and state becomes blurred as another presidential election looms. As former governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman enter the Republican presidential race, the issue of their faith – Mormonism – once again enters into the fray.

The Gallup organization released a poll of Americans’ views on the faith of a President and found that 22% of Americans would not be willing for vote for a Mormon. Other findings show that 49% would not vote for an atheist; 7% would not vote for a Catholic, and 9% would not vote for a Jew.

There was no mention of how many would not vote for a Muslim, but I suspect the number would be disturbingly high.

Now, some of those numbers are a lot better: according to the study: “in 1959, the year before John F. Kennedy won election as the nation’s first Catholic president, 25% of Americans — including 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans, and 18% of independents — said they would not vote for a Catholic.”

Still, the question I have is: who cares? Who cares about the religion or faith tradition of a particular Presidential candidate?

During the 2008 election, a widely used “smear” against President Obama was that he was a “secret Muslim.” It was so pervasive that the Obama campaign was compelled to debunk that rumor by insisting that he was a committed Christian (for which he was also taken to task because of his former pastor).

Jon Huntsman has seen it fit to distance himself from his Mormon faith, seeing that it may not be very popular among Republican primary voters.

Yet, again, who cares? Why is the faith of the candidate even important?

Of course, many people’s faith and faith traditions shape their philosophies and worldviews, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most faith traditions have very good principles and values, and thus being shaped by one faith or another should not be a problem.

The criterion by which someone vying for public office should be judged is how well he or she will do the job they are elected to do, not the particular faith tradition they happen to follow, and that includes no faith tradition at all.

It is completely immaterial that Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is Jewish; what matters is how well he serves the City and her people.

If a Muslim ever were to run for president, his or her faith should not matter at all, and it is wrong to “smear” someone – like President Obama – with the rumor that he is a Muslim or any other faith tradition.

The framers of our Constitution separated church and state for a good reason, and someone’s faith should not be part of the calculus of what makes an “acceptable” candidate for public office. That is what makes our country as great as it is.

How The Republican Party Left Me


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This was published today in the Middle East Online (http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=46809)

Ever since I was old enough, I voted in almost every election. In many of those elections I voted Republican. In fact, I became involved in local Republican politics, being a Committeeman and assistant Committeeman for my local township Republican party. I felt truly at home in the Republican party, with its emphasis on conservative social values and limited government intrusion into personal life. Even though I didn’t vote for George W. Bush in 2004, I still remained loyal to the Republican party. It simply felt right.

That all changed in the 2008 Presidential election. The repeated smears among Republican and right wing circles, that Obama is somehow a stealth Muslim, was particularly distasteful to me. The repeated stoking of fear and hatred against American Muslims for cynical political gain, and the failure of Republican leadership to repudiate it solidified my resolve to leave the party. So in 2010, I voted in my first primary election as a Democrat.

Now that the 2012 election season has begun to rev up, and the field of Republican candidates for President begins to come into clearer view, the question has entered my mind: Did I make the right decision? Was I correct in leaving the Republican Party as an American Muslim? Or was my decision too hasty, based on emotion rather than facts about where the Republicans stand?

And my answer is: Absolutely not, leaving the Republican Party was exactly the right thing to do.

Let’s take the myriad of bills in more than a dozen states — all proposed by Republicans — that seek to criminalize or ban “Sharia law.” It was a solution looking for a problem. There is no risk at all of Sharia law ever being used in American courts, Still, several Republican legislators felt it necessary to introduce bills to prevent such an eventuality. Some of these bills actually seemed to criminalize being a Muslim. Yet, there was no call from the National Republican leadership to decry such blatant anti-Muslim fear mongering.

Then there are the Republican candidates for President. Newt Gingrich has repeatedly mentioned the “dangers” of Sharia law for the United States. His evidence, however, is sorely lacking. Herman Cain has said that he would be “uncomfortable” with a Muslim in his cabinet or as a federal judge. He even called for “loyalty tests” for Muslims — and only Muslims — who wanted to serve in his hypothetical Administration. Again, I’ve heard no repudiation from any of the national Republican leadership, although, to his credit, Mitt Romney refused to attack Muslims for political gain. Yet, his voice, it seems, is a very lone one indeed.

Peter King, Congressman from NY who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, seems to be “obsessed” with Muslims. He has held two hearings now about the “radicalization of American Muslims” and its threat to the security of the homeland. Now, there have been a few Muslims in America who have been radicalized and have attempted to commit acts of terrorism, but they are a minuscule number and they are not representative of the millions of good citizens in the American Muslim community, which studies have shown is patriotic, mainstream, and deeply loyal to the United States. But King’s hearings seem to blame — and he has said as much — that the American Muslim community is somehow complicit in the acts of the tiny number of criminals who act in its name.

Once again, the response from the Republican leadership: a deafening silence.

All in all, it seems that the Republican Party has decided that demonizing Islam and Muslims is good politics. Never mind that American Muslims are some of the most successful Americans around. Never mind that American Muslims are just the sort of people who would be a good ally of the Republican Party. Never mind that American Muslims are an important part of the fabric of our country, and marginalizing them — as with any other minority — can only hurt the country going forward. No. It seems that the Republican Party does not want any Muslims in its ranks, and it is quite content with that.

Well, I am so very glad I left, and I haven’t missed the Republican Party for a moment since.