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America’s fear of Islam neglects the real terror: Us

Milam's Musings, milambc@miamioh.edu

President Obama is a Christian, like most U.S. Presidents, and was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

That sentence of fact since Obama took office in January 2009 has proved controversial. Today, the belief that Obama is a Muslim and born somewhere outside the United States persists, the former being a bit stronger.

According to a Sept. 13 CNN/ORC poll, only 39 percent of respondents answered correctly that Obama is a Christian. The next highest was 29 percent of respondents believing him to be a Muslim.

Moreover, 20 percent of respondents think Obama was born outside the United States either with "solid evidence" or "suspicion only" backing up that claim.

Among Republicans and conservatives, 43 and 45 percent of respondents, respectively, think Obama is a Muslim (and, it's worth noting, even 17 percent of Democrats hold this view).

Furthermore, among Trump supporters specifically, 54 percent believe Obama is a Muslim. At a Trump rally on Sept. 17, Trump called on a supporter who prefaced his question with, "We have a problem in this country; it's called Muslims. We know our current president is one."

Find the video online and note the questioner's disdainful tone when saying Obama is a Muslim. Nevertheless, the point is that Trump didn't refute him by noting, no, Obama is a Christian.

However, the far more salient point ought to be, even if President Obama were a Muslim - which, again, he is not - so what?

Ought a young Muslim boy - say 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed from MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, arrested Sept. 14 for bringing a digital clock to his engineering teacher - or a Muslim girl, not try to aspire to be the president because they live in a country where such Islamophobia runs rampant?

To be fair, there is room for some optimism. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 58 percent of respondents would vote for a Muslim president, which actually ranks higher than an atheist (54 percent), although both lag far behind Catholic, Hispanic, Jewish and Mormon (94, 92, 91 and 80 percent, respectively).

And yet, squaring that with the persistent myth of Obama as a Muslim (and the further implication behind that) engenders skepticism in me that the American people would actually vote for an unabashed Muslim candidate for president.

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On "Meet the Press" Sept. 20, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson explicitly said, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

There is nothing inherently wrong with being a Muslim. There is nothing inherently wrong with Islam. Yet, Muslims are scapegoated for all the ills of the United States.

For a country that seems to pride itself on strength and bravado, we sure are wimps when it comes to security, safety and the nefarious "other," in this case, the Muslim.

As an example, prominent talk show host and so-called liberal, Bill Maher, said on "Real Time" that liberals need to drop the political correctness regarding Ahmed.

He added that, sure, Ahmed deserved an apology, but school officials weren't wrong to profile Ahmed as a Muslim.

"For the last 30 years, it's been one culture that has been blowing shit up over and over again," Maher said.

Well, that's odd. Undoubtedly, there have been terrorists under the umbrella of Islam that have "blown shit up." But if there is one culture that gets to take the dubious honor of blowing shit up the last 30 years, it's the West, and more specifically, the United States.

Just since Obama took office, the United States has bombed seven predominately Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Syria. That also doesn't account for potential clandestine bombings in the Philippines or U.S.-backed bombings in Gaza or our backing of the Saudis in their current war efforts.

A fact, of which, it should be noted, Obama himself "bragged" about to bolster his strength on the Iran nuclear deal in a speech to the American University Aug. 5.

"As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I've ordered military action in seven countries. There are times when force is necessary," Obama said.

If I stretched this back to George W. Bush, we have bombed many of those same countries, including the pre-emptive, illegal and disastrous Iraq War invasion. If I stretch back to Clinton, there's Serbia, Kosovo, the Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, again. Then stretch more to W.'s dad, and there's the first Gulf War. Go back to a few years of the Regan administration and there's the support of Saddam gassing the Iranians, as well as the bombing of Libya in 1986.

And if Maher wants to go back more than 30 years, there are far deadlier examples, including (especially given the Iran nuclear deal talk) dropping two nuclear bombs on a country; the U.S. being the only country to have ever done so, not Muslims.

Not to mention, as Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept pointed out, the U.S. uses or facilitates the use of illegal cluster bombs (there's the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which 117 countries have joined, the U.S. not being one of them).

One example Greenwald notes: just weeks after Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009, he ordered a cruise missile strike on al-Majala in southern Yemen. The strike, which included cluster bombs, one designed to scatter 166 "bomblets," killed 35 women and children, according to The Telegraph.

My point is three-fold when unpacking the "Obama is a Muslim" statement. First, he's not. Second, even if he were, that shouldn't be problematic. And third, underwriting the entire premise of that statement is the fear of Muslims and of Islam as being inherently violent or, more hyperbolic, an existential threat to our country.

We should look within at the violence done in our name to Muslims by the U.S. government.

We are the "other." We are the terror.

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