Monday, June 23, 2008

Fine Line: Obama Risks Offending Muslim Base

I've commented a few times on the continuing controversy surrounding Barack Obama's religious identity (see "Barack Obama's Soft Underbelly: The Muslim Smear").

the Wall Street Journal reports that Obama could lose the Muslim-American vote if he lashes out too hard against the smears:

It is inaccurate to call Barack Obama a Muslim. Is it a slur?

The Obama campaign suggests it is. A new campaign Web site designed to air and rebut potentially damaging Internet rumors reads in one part: "Smear: Barack Obama is a Muslim... Truth: Sen. Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim and is a committed Christian."

The characterization highlights a tricky balance the campaign is trying to strike: to tamp down false rumors -- intended by some to link the Democratic presidential candidate to radical Islam -- without offending Muslims and harming his image of inclusiveness.

Muslim-Americans have made up one of Sen. Obama's most loyal bases of support since he announced his candidacy last year. But lately some Muslims, concentrated in several battleground states, say they are having second thoughts over his campaign's ardent defense of his religious background.
Having a Muslim in the White House would be controversial for many Americans, but the larger issue is the dupicity and evasion surrounding Obama's reaction to the allegations.

On the question of Obama's integrity in this debate, see once again, Melanie Phillips, "
Obama Takes on the Great Global Blogosphere Conspiracy Against His Holiness."

Note how the
WSJ piece continues:

The handling of Islam in American politics, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has become a delicate issue. Politicians from President Bush on down have wrestled with how to attack radical Islam without seeming anti-Islam.

Sen. Obama, who says he has always been a Christian, has been grappling with the accusations for more than a year, when Internet rumors began to emerge that he was educated in a radical madrassa in Indonesia and that he took the oath of office with his hand on the Quran instead of the Bible.

"The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the U.S. from the inside out, what better way than to start at the highest level, through the president of the United States -- one of their own!!!" reads one email chain, evoking the communist plot to take over the presidency in the 1962 movie, "The Manchurian Candidate."

A Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll conducted in March shows the rumors have only stuck with a small portion of mostly conservative, noncollege-educated voters: 79% of respondents said they had heard the rumor that Sen. Obama is a Muslim, but only one in 10 said they believe it. A separate poll from the Pew Forum last September showed the liability of the perception. In the survey, 45% of respondents said they would have reservations about voting for a presidential candidate who is Muslim, compared with 25% for a Mormon candidate and 11% for a Jewish candidate.
See also, Daniel Pipes, "Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam."