Strength of our faiths

by Michael O. Allen on October 22, 2008

Among the photographs taken by the photog Platon of hundreds of men and women who volunteered to serve in the military and were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan was this striking one of Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. Gen. Colin Powell mentioned the photograph in denouncing the religious bias of people who were accusing Sen. Barack Obama of being a muslim.

This issue has bothered me all year long and everyone has acted disgracefully on the subject, even my candidate, Sen. Barack Obama.

“He’s a muslim,” people have said about him.

Obama, who has taken on all questions and issues with elan, somehow could not figure out how to handle this issue.

His response has basically been: “Who are you calling a muslim? I am a christian!”

The accusation of course rests on the premise that all muslims are terrorists, which is a disgraceful lie unbecoming of our great nation.

Americans who use someone’s supposed religion as a wedge issue should be ashamed of themselves. This is what I expected to hear from Obama. He has handled all other questions that have come his way this election season so expertly that I was mystified why the answer to this one eluded him, why he could not find the grace to not only beat back this slander but welcome muslims into his ever widening tent.

Leave it to Gen. Colin Powell in his endorsement statement to restore my faith in our nation. Gen. Powell found just the right words. First, he saidhe was troubled that Republicans (and some Democrats) have been spreading rumors that Obama is a Muslim.

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s 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 a 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 are 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 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can 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 nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

It was a tremendously clarifying statement and an affirmation of our diverse and pluralistic society, which has been the envy of the world. We largely don’t engage in ethnic cleansing despite our multitudes of peoples. We strive to build a tolerant society. Gen. Powell told us that even, especially, in the pursuit of the highest office in the land, we must remember the nation that we aspire to be.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark Starr October 23, 2008 at 7:09 PM

Great job Michael!

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