City of Brass

City of Brass

Bobby Jindal and the muslim smear

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Bobby Jindal is a Catholic. He was born to Hindu parents but converted to Catholicism. 

It bears repeating because it seems likely that Jindal will probably face some version of the same “muslim smear” that Barack Obama had to deal with all throughout the campaign (and which endured partly because Obama never made an effort to confront the central prejudice at the heart of it).

As Dan Gilgofff observed, the muslim smear is lying in wait for Jindal – and guess who is promoting it?

I’m surprised that a few comments on my post about Bobby Jindal as the new face of Christian conservatism allege that he’s got ancestral Muslim roots, in addition to the acknowledged Hinduism of his Indian born parents. Remind you of any other recent rumor campaigns against promising young minority politicians?

What’s surprising is that some of the comments appear to be from pro-Sarah Palin conservatives. They’re a likely preview of what a Jindal primary faceoff with Palin or another Christian conservative might look like, with both vying for conservative Christian support.

It isn’t just in Gilgoff’s comment section that these insinuations are starting to appear – there are “Jindal is actually a muslim” comments on Chris Cilizza’s post about Jindal at the Washington Post, and this post at the opinion blog at the Dallas Morning News, to name but a few. Some of the comments seem fake, by lefty troublemakers out to embarrrass conservatives, but if so then this is a ery dangerous and divisive game that these fools are playing, and it needs to stop. However, some of these seem rather genuine indeed.

It should be noted that Gilgoff mentioned that some of these comments originated from Sarah Palin fans, which makes a certain amount of sense given that Palin and Jindal will be competing for the evangelical vote. However that’s a far cry from claiming that Palin herself would sanction such a strategy (though Palin’s near-incitement against Obama on the campaign trail was simply obscene). Eileen Flynn takes great offense on Palin’s behalf by Gilgoff’s comment, for example, but the simple truth is that the muslim smear was real and there’s no reason to pretend that there aren’t some with a vested interest in resurrecting it. Good political weapons never get shelved for long. There will always be a base of the electorate that simply distrusts dark skin – and the association thereof with “foreign” faiths and cultures. After all, in the United States we have broken the racial barrier to the Presidency but it still remains true that only Christians need apply.

My advice to Jindal is the same as it was to Obama – confront the religious prejudice head-on and ask, so what if he were muslim? Unfortunately, the GOP seems increasingly hostile to Islam. I have started a new category here at City of Brass titled, “Republican Fitna” in which I will continue to document the ever-increasing Islamophobia on the right. So, it is doubtful that Jindal will see a need to mount a defense of Islam or being muslim; doing so will change very few minds among those who will subscribe to the smear in the first place, and probably hurt Jindal more in the long run for not toeing the Islamophobic line.

Related: At Sepia Mutiny, the crew discusses the strangely bland conversion tale of Bobby Jindal. Also, Swampland excerpts Jindal’s own account of participating in an actual, honest-to-goodness exorcism.

UPDATE: Conservatives 4 Palin mount an impassioned defense of Palin as someone who harbors no anti-muslim sentiment. From what I’ve seen and heard of Palin, I agree with them. The issue is not what Palin does but what (a minority of) people who support her might do. But as I also said, the “jindal muslim” meme is probably not limited to conservatives but also the work of some leftists who think it’s satirical and embarrassing to the GOP; thats playing with fire and such knowing defamation is arguably worse than ignorant racism.

  • ahmed shaikh

    your link to the “only christians need apply” article was from a terrifying, right-wing, hindu fascist newspaper. in one of the other articles, the editor interrupts a story to write that now is the time for “hindus to unite to teach descendants of mughals a lesson”.
    that sent a chill down my spine.
    but the particular article you linked to was not as terrifying, i must admit. still, you must be careful. if a neo-nazi website had a good analysis of the merits of vanilla- vs strawberry-flavoured ice cream, we’d all be hard-pressed to recommend it simply because it was a neo-nazi website.
    did i take the analogy too far? you get my point either way.

  • hootie1fan

    For many in politics, anything one can do to smears the opposition even in one’s political party is par for the course

  • Sai

    In the US, there is a selective prejudice that inhabits the minds of many Americans. While African-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Jews escape this overt prejudice, South Asians are the victims of stereotypes and uneducated anti-Arab racism.
    Whether this is due to ignorance and the small number of South Asians within the United States concerning Jindal one thing is clear regardless of our political allegiance to Democrats and Republicans, that Bobby Jindal is an American who sincerely loves his country.

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    yikes. youre right, Ahmed. i was just googlingto see how far the jindal/muslim smear had spread so far and didnt bother to click around beyond the article of interest.

  • DG

    Bobby Jindal will have a much easier time running for President (if he so chooses) because of Barack Obama. The conservative radio community will embrace Jindal because he is a Republican just as it has quickly closed ranks against Obama just because he is a Democrat. Where I live we have an Indian Hindu town administrator and religion is never an issue. The small number of people who dislike him do so because he wants to reform local government and eliminate some town jobs.

  • Danielle

    This is absolutely outrageous. How dare you associate Sarah Palin with any of this hate, when she has not said ONE negative WORD regarding anyone’s faith. If so, put up or shut up. Show me evidence of ONE WORD Sarah Palin has said regarding anyones faith. Let’s save everyone’s time. YOU CANT. This is just B.S. on your part. Who’s the hater? That would be you.

  • Your Name

    If I may make a suggestion, unless you hear Sarah Palin say something about anyone and if it comes out of her own mouth I would suggest you don’t believe it. She is probably the most honest, sincere and caring politician I have ever seen.Then there are the people who just like to start rumors. Do your self a favor and go to the source if you want to seek the truth.I highly doubt Sarah said anything bad about bobby jindals religion and if other people have said bad things about him. Don’t attach her to these people. Find someone else to attach them to.

  • tim gueguen

    My suspicion is that it doesn’t matter whether Palin has any role in this silliness or not because she won’t be running in 2012 anyways.

  • Christopher Mohr

    Danielle and Your Name,
    If you had actually read the article, you’d know that he’s not saying Palin is involved or saying anything. That’s the whole point – it’s not her, but her half-crazed, hard-core base of supporters who are doing this. And it will reflect badly on her simply because she isn’t denouncing them.

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