Dear Senator Obama,
I am writing to you from Hyde Park, Chicago, as your constituent and as a long-term supporter. I admit that I have been severely disappointed by your response to the stories peddled across right-wing sites that you attended a ‘Madrasa’ in your youth. Ever since the story broke, I had been waiting for your response and hoping that you will lay bare the fundamental prejudice and hatred underlining that story.
Today, I read the response issued by your campaign office and I quote:
To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.
These malicious, irresponsible charges are precisely the kind of politics the American people have grown tired of, and that Senator Obama is trying to change by focusing on bringing people together to solve our common problems.
I was hoping that the response would not be to proclaim the horror of being insinuated a “Muslim” (Is it really such a terrible shame that one was born a Muslim?). I was hoping that you’d point out that the word “Madrasa” simply means “school”. That every school in the Islamicate world has that word in its title – even the American or British. You could have shown them this school in Marrakesh or this school in Doha . You could have refused to further the Islamophobia taken root in American society by stressing your appreciation of the cultural heritage you acquired in Indonesia. You could have simply said, ‘While I am a Christian, I resent the implications in being branded a terrorist-sympathizer merely by association with Muslims. There is no direct correlation between a Muslim and a terrorist despite the demonizing efforts of certain groups. One cannot pass judgement on billions of people and their faith without recalling the histories of Jews in Europe or Africans in Americas.’
Instead, your campaign sought to play the defensive card. To stress your Christian creditability and to proclaim a vehement distancing from anything “Muslim”. To simply call this story “a malicious and irresponsible charge” at you is wrong. It is “a malicious and irresponsible charge” at the millions of Muslim Americans and billions of Muslims around the world. You may have been the target of this mis-information but the victims are Muslims who must now defend their culture, belief and heritage, while living in America.
This is the state of Islamophobia in America today, where a simple declaration: “He is a Muslim” casts doubts on a Presidential campaign. I hope that you will make a further statement on this issue and lay bare the racist and phobic agendas in news organizations who make peddling such hatred their business.
I wish you continued success in your campaign and I know that I will be working to help you get elected in 2008.