I support Obama for President, and I believe that given the Republican Party’s war on muslims in the public and political sphere (Mazen Asbahi, Rima Sinclair, now Rashid Khalidi just the latest examples), his Presidency will do much to mitigate the tide of Islamophobia washing our political shores. But Obama is still a failure for not facing the muslim smear head-on, with the same political courage he demonstrated in the wake of the Reverend Wright affair and his now-historic speech on race. Did that speech erase racial prejudice? No, but it estalished the framework for a post-racial politics. If Obama had shown similar courage, and applied his considerable rhetorical and leadership skills, towards the muslim smear, he might have laid a smilar groundwork for a post-religious politics, which would not only beefit muslims but also Jews and other minorities, and increased America’s leverage and moral leadership abroad as we seek to promote liberalism and human rights abroad, which is a fundamental strategic objective for own national security).
This failure of Obama to confront religious prejudice is directly responsible for the durability of the muslim smear: 23% of all Texans and 28% of Kentucky Republicans still believe Obama to be muslim (and higher percentages remain unsure if he is Christian or not). Nationwide, it’s 12%, and more likely to sway Democrats against Obama than Republicans for obvious reasons.
Related: good summary and overview of Arab and muslim stereotypes and the complicity of our presidential candidates in perpetuating them, by Jack Shaheen.