On Meet the Press yesterday, Colin Powell skewered certain Republicans for trying to play the Muslim card on Barack Obama:
I’m also troubled by – not what Senator McCain says – but what members of the Party say, and it is permitted to be said: such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian; has 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.” Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be President? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own Party drop the suggestion he’s Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery. And she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards – Purple Heart, Bronze Star; showed that he died in Iraq; gave his date of birth, date of death. He was twenty years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Kahn. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey, he was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he could go serve his country and he gave his life.
Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that within the Party we have these kinds of expressions.
Obama has draw criticism from some Muslims for not defending Islam nearly so forcefully as he’s been combatting false rumors that he’s Muslim (though Obama did stick up for Muslims in a summer appearance on Larry King Live). Some Mulsims are still upset with Obama over this perceived slight.
Politically speaking, however, could Obama have hoped for a better decrier of the Obama-as-Muslim myth a couple weeks before Election Day? Could Muslims have hoped for a better defender before a national audience?
Powell, after all, is the man who made the case for the Iraq invasion before the United Nations, a veteran of President Bush’s War on Terror. What he says about the Obama/Muslim myth and about Muslims generally matters a lot because he’s got solid Republican/anti-terror credentials.