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.