President Obama has taken his show on the road and the destination is the Muslim world. I'll write about the folly of lumping all Muslims into the Arab world, as he is doing, at another time. This is about honesty and common sense. I am still determined to bring back common sense into the public arena.
At the end of an interview with the press and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, President Obama concluded his remarks with "Shukran". That is Arabic for thank you. On its face, it is a polite gesture as a foreigner who doesn't speak the country's language. World travelers know the value of even the smallest attempts at the native language by her people. I do it, too. In my city, Houston, we are known as one of the most diverse cities in the country and it is not unusual to be in business establishments owned by immigrants to our country. If I know something basic - thank you, hello, goodbye - in their native language, I will use it. I can do that in Mandarin, French (almost fluent), and Spanish. I can say bad words in Finnish, thanks to a college roommate but that's for another day, too.
What comes across as insincere about President Obama's newly public embrace of all things Muslim is that during the campaign, his handlers were determined to keep it all out of the fray. His Muslim father was described as 'agnostic', his mother was described as atheist, his step-father who adopted him and moved his family to Indonesia enrolled him in Muslim school but it was not to be spoken of, and only his conversion to Christianity was discussed. He began his Christian journey during his move to Chicago and his life with Michelle. He joined her church - the Black liberation Christian church of Rev. Wright - so that was controversial, too. Obama tried to remain above it all. Then, after various embarrassing statements by Rev. Wright, the topper was Wright calling Obama "a politician" and that was it. Obama left the church. No more questioning of the judgment of Barack Obama raising his young daughters in the church their mother was raised in.
One radio talk show host in Cincinnati was chastised when he dared to use the middle name of Barack Obama - Hussein. It was labeled a slur. Like it or not, the candidate's name was the candidate's name. Why didn't he simply embrace it instead of making a division with it? We know why. He's a politician. He was running for President. Instead of embracing it and educating audiences, he chose to demonize.
It was as though he was denying his Muslim heritage. Why was he ashamed of it? Haven't we been taught over and over again that everyone is entitled to the religion of their choice in this country? It is with great pride that we acknowledge our freedoms, including freedom of religion. President Obama has a disturbing way of handling controversy - instead of talking about a subject head-on, he demonizes his opposition. That does not speak well of his character.
President Obama, now safely nestled into office, is all about Muslim outreach. That's fine, on its face. Too little credit is given to former President Bush who was out front immediately after the attacks of 9/11/01 with outreach to the Muslim community. He was the first to say that we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with Islamic fanatics.
Candidate Obama and now President Obama inflates the divide between the Muslim world and the rest of the world. He does it for political reasons. Now, however, it is well past time for him to show leadership on the world stage. Stop with the perpetual apologies, with the constant blame-America-first guilt trips. That attitude, despite what Obama proclaims, is not respected in the Muslim world. They view it as weakness.
Obama told French tv reporter, Laura Haim on Canal Plus that the "U.S. also could be considered as "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world'." That is simply not true. And it was an unnecessary pander. He goes to Cairo to give, what his staff call an "historic" speech. They have yet to acknowledge former Sec of State Condi Rice's truly historic speech in Cairo in 2005. She was a woman, a Black American, a U.S. Secretary of State, honest enough to state clearly that the past 60 years of turning the other way and accepting business as usual in that part of the world must end. Human rights, religious freedom, decent living conditions are all necessary for a freer world.
In Turkey, President Obama said, "Americans do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation." John McCain was criticized for calling America a Christian nation in 2007. George W. Bush was ridiculed relentlessly for his faith.
America is a Judea-Christian nation. We have all of the world's religions represented in our country and we are a richer nation for it. However, we were founded a Judea-Christian nation. We state, "In God We Trust", not in Allah or in Buddha.
It is good for President Obama to now publicly embrace his Muslim heritage. It must be good karma for his life. It is definitely healthy for his daughters to freely know their heritage. Obama is the first African American president, true. But he is of Kenyan ancestry, not west African ancestry as that of, say, his wife and the majority of the Black Americans who have been a part of the fabric of our nation's history from the days of our Founding Fathers.
It is reported that his Muslim grandmother who lives in Kenya will go on the Hajj this year. That never would have been acknowledged by the Obama campaign last fall. Will it be this year? Will the press who were determined to have Obama elected actually begin to ask questions as matters come up?