A Muslim American's Take on Colin Powell's Speech

Powell's surprisingly tolerant words reflect a growing Republican self-awareness of previously unchecked "smear by Muslim association" rhetoric.
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After being treated as political kryptonite and depicted as enraged Orcs for the past seven years, Muslims and Arabs -- the media's modern day Morlocks -- temporarily emerged as human beings thanks to Colin Powell's Obama endorsement on Sunday.

The former US secretary of state partially redeemed his tarnished legacy by asking:

"What if [Obama] is [a Muslim]? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be president?

Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists[emphasis added]. This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Unfortunately, according to an increasingly vocal, racist and Islamophobic minority, which has been shamefully aided over the years by the inexcusable silence of a complicit mainstream media, there is something fundamentally "un-American" about wearing the contemporary Scarlet Letter: Muslim.

The October surprise unleashed by a desperate Republican campaign -- spearheaded by mavericks John McCain and Sarah Palin -- reeks from the stench of a modern day, fear-mongering McCarthyism -- replacing Communism with Islam.

Obama, that biracial, African American son of a Kenyan with an Arab name, is apparently now a "Socialist with Islamic background" according to anti-Muslim McCain supporters at a now infamous McCain Virginia rally. When asked to prove such an audacious claim, the rabble-rouser replied:

"Well, he was raised in a madrassa [an Indonesian elementary school]... there's a lot of background... I can't do that [intelligently explain my prejudice] right now."

Perhaps he received his cues from McCain and Governor Palin. Although Colin Powell swears McCain is no racist, the media conveniently forgets his obscene and unapologetic 2000 statement:

"I hate the Gooks. I will hate them as long as I live."

Thankfully, the Vietnamese Americans at McCainHatesGooks.com have not.

Therefore, is it truly surprising that McCain's running mate, Troopergate Palin, recently cast doubt on Obama's "past" due to his associations with Reverend Wright, his "terrorist pal" William Ayers, and most recently in a speech where she compared Obama to a socialist:

"Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth ... But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairy Man, I believe that they think that it sounds more like socialism."

According to Sarah the Moose Hunter and her acolytes, such as Rush the Blowhard and Stephen the Untalented Baldwin, Obama's Arabic name and non-existent Islamic roots emit threatening "un-American" and "terrorist-y" vibes.

In contrast, however, Powell's surprisingly tolerant words, which he should have uttered in 2003 in lieu of his shameful UN security council "anthrax in a vial" speech, reflect a growing Republican self-awareness of previously unchecked "smear by Muslim association" rhetoric. In fact, at the same Virginia McCain rally, several Conservative Christian and Muslim McCain voters chastised the "Obama is a Muslim" inciter as racist and unrepresentative of their beliefs.

One wonders what took an influential American personality, such as Powell, so long to make such elementary and rational statements regarding Muslim and Arab Americans. CNN's Campbell Brown should be commended as being one of the first vocal members of the mainstream media to ask, "Even if Obama is a Muslim -- so what?" Even actor Ben Affleck deserves applause for reminding the world on Real Time with Bill Maher that

"Arab and 'good person' are not antithetical to one another."

The next evolutionary step, of course, will be "He's Muslim -- not that there's anything wrong with that." Followed, hopefully, by "Why, some of my best friends are Muslim!"

Eventually, it will culminate with a blindingly obvious realization that indeed Muslims -- like every other group -- are patriotic American citizens, just like the 20-year-old specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan mentioned in Powell's speech. Sultan, a Muslim American native of Manahawkin, New Jersey, and the recipient of the prestigious Purple Heart and Bronze Star, now rests in Arlington Cemetery after giving his life to protect and serve his country in Iraq.

Shahed Amanullah, the editor of Altmuslim.com, reminds us that

"According to the American Muslim armed forces and veterans affairs council, there are currently 20,000 Muslims serving with honor in the US military."

Furthermore, it warrants mentioning that in 2007, the Washington, D.C. Muslim community honored the Muslim American Veteran's Association, which was represented by Muslim soldiers who bravely fought for the US alongside their fellow American soldiers in the Second World War.

Yet, these sobering reminders of our communality are constantly drowned in a sea of divisive hate speech. Surprisingly, no one has asked: "What do Muslim, African and Arab countries think of the anti-Obama smear campaign?" After all, if McCain wins a major reason will be due to his campaign's use of racist and prejudicial fear mongering, as evidenced by the recent McCain-endorsed robocalls.

What does this rhetoric say about America, and what signal does that send to the rest of the world? In the 21st century, is the self-proclaimed beacon of democracy and defender of liberties comprised of a hypocritical and ignorant voting populace so terrified of a "minority" that we vote for the alternative simply due to his "whiteness," which inherently affirms his professed "American-ness?" If indeed McCain is a maverick, reformer and a "uniter" unlike George Bush, how will he explain his campaign rhetoric and smearing tactics to Muslim allies, such as Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, as we combine efforts on the "War on Terror?" Due to this overwhelming hysteria, are we shocked to learn that according to a comprehensive world Gallup poll -- highlighted in the inestimable Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think - when Americans were asked, "What do you admire about Muslims?" a majority answered, "I don't know" or "Nothing."

When the US had the honour of hosting the 1996 Olympics, the pantheon of athletic talent and sportsmanship, Americans reflected a different mentality. The motto of the Olympic Games is as follows:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Sadly, the Republicans have lost sight of this sentiment. However, in Atlanta 12 years ago the US -- which includes Republicans, Democrats and independents - took pride in bestowing the honour of lighting the Olympic flame to a national symbol of strength and defiance.

He has an Arab name.

He is Muhammad Ali.

He is an American.

And a Muslim.

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