Nov 022008
Authors: Zaki Safar

We can never seem to eradicate the roots of ignorance, can we?

At a recent rally for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a woman stated that Democratic candidate Barack Obama is “an Arab” and therefore, she doesn’t “trust him.”

Sen. McCain promptly took the microphone from her, only to make an earth-shattering statement of fact: “No, ma’am, no ma’am. He’s a decent family man.”

Now let me make certain I have this straight, my friends. According to McCain’s logic, one can either be an Arab or a decent family man, but definitely not both.

Dishearteningly, the Republican candidate’s disappointing and reprehensible insinuation not only suggests disparaging the family aspect, if not all of the Arabic culture, but also sparks a world of racial prejudice, fans the flames of hatred and feeds anti-Arab/Muslim sentiments.

Another mortifying incident from the never-ending campaign trail’s affronts is the adamant refusal of McCain to repudiate Pastor Ron Parsley’s endorsement.

Parsley, who, in addressing a 12,000 member congregation announced, “I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam . The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”

The pastor also falsely claims that Islam is “an anti-Christ” religion and asserts that Prophet Muhammad “received revelations from demons and not from the true God.”

However, instead of renouncing the pastor’s Islamophobic and inflammatory remarks, McCain called Parsley “a spiritual guide,” slamming against the wall any consideration of the feelings of an already marginalized segment of the U.S. population. Of course, major news outlets never bothered to pick up on the story.

This, however, should not come as a surprise. On several occasions, McCain has praised “Judeo-Christian” traditions and showed displeasure at those who don’t “share” them, striking a blow to the standards of equality and pluralism for which “the American dream” calls.

Unfortunately, as ignorance continues to prevail, some people have a difficult time differentiating between a small group of radical extremists who commit their heinous crimes under the name of Islam and the some 1.5 billion peaceful Muslim population worldwide.

They also fail to recognize the fact that every religion has experienced radicalism and extremism among some groups of its followers.

Whether members of Congress, doctors, attorneys, business people, law enforcers or even Joe-the-plumbers, Arab and Muslim Americans are just simple people who are seeking equal opportunity and who have contributed to the American society in numerous positive ways.

Ever since the primaries, I would let out an exasperated sigh each time Obama was “accused” of being a Muslim, as if being a Muslim is a crime or something vile and wrong.

As the terms “Arab” and “Muslim” seem increasingly to carry obscene implications to some, one might rightfully wonder if the day will come when we see these words eventually beeped over on TV or asterisked in writings like any random profanity.

But even in the light of their small political weight, Muslims in America should start taking matters into their own hands. As an initial step, they must leave a lingering mark on the upcoming elections.

In the remaining days preceding Election Day, Muslim leaders should emphasize to their communities the importance of voting. Friday sermons need to focus on this topic and student clubs must reach out to their affiliates to cast their vote.

If the voter turnout is sufficiently large, Arabs and Muslims will command respect, and candidates will think twice before voicing any asinine comments in future campaigns.

At the same time, some might pose the question, “What should Sen. McCain have said in response to the woman at the rally?” Colin Powell suggested an answer.

In his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the former Secretary of State said in part:

“The correct answer is, [Obama] is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.”

Arab and Muslim Americans are proud Americans. Isn’t it about time that their politicians were proud of them as well?

Zaki Safar is a CSU alumnus and the former president of the Muslim Student Association. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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