Sunday, August 3, 2014

How dare the President say something nice about Muslims

Barack Hussein Obama, as he is known in conservative circles, had the nerve to say something nice about Muslims the other day to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
“In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy,” reads the statement on Eid-al-Fitr posted to The White House’s official website. “That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.”

Unsurprisingly, this is like a red rag to some folks on the conservative fringe who think anything vaguely nice said about Muslims must be a sign of creeping Sharia.

This one from Republican Party of Virginia treasurer Bob FitzSimmonds:



Black conservative Kevin Jackson, on his site The Black Sphere (which is weirdly obsessed with chronicling everything it deems dysfunctional about black people), had this to say:

I’d like to know what Muslims have done to improve America. It must be a secret list, kept with Obama’s birth certificate and his college transcripts!

Outside of raising my alert to “high” when I’m on airplanes, and showcasing how to treat women as surrogates, I can’t seem to put my finger on much positive coming from our Muslim brethren.

FitzSimmonds and Jackson clearly didn't try to think very hard, or even to consult Wikipedia. Would it stretch the brain too much to acknowledge two of America's greatest ever sportsmen, boxer Muhammad Ali and basketballer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Or 1999's Nobel Prizer winner in chemistry, Ahmed Zewail? Jazz musicians Ahmad Jamal, Art Blakey or Yusuf Lateef? Or Ahmet Ertegun who founded not only Atlantic Records but also the New York Cosmos soccer team?

But of course most Muslim Americans are just doing regular people stuff. Which surely is part of the fabric of society, whether they are doctors, taxi drivers, business owners or factory workers.

But Robert Spencer at Front Page Magazine accuses Obama of planning to sneakily rewrite history. According to him, since Muslims were not present at key US historical moments like the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, the World Wars, and so on, then they cannot be considered to have had a role in building the fabric of the nation.

But this of course reflects a typical conservative perspective in which the the nation's "fabric" was already woven well before the 20th century, and remains etched in stone. Thus the contributions of people who were forcibly kept on the margins for the majority of US history - in other words, anyone who is not a white male Christian - will never really be regarded as part of the fabric of the nation, only as footnotes. Which is why the worldview of 18th and 19th century slave-owners is still sacrosanct for many conservatives today. The idea that history is a fabric that is continually being woven would be anathema to these folks.

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