A Muslim Like Obama II

Having not heard or read this point anywhere in the cacophony over the New Yorker cover, let me add it myself.

The reactions to the cover have been in two camps: 1. It is satire. Grow a sense of humor. Or at least, recognize that this is a distillation of what red state people think (Obama/Osama). 2. It is humorless and crystallizes all the worst assumptions and offensive to Obama.

I am not going to debate with either of those. My post below, the “Finally”, refers instead to a different crystallization.

This cover, my gentle readers, renders absolutely the full melding of “terrorist” and “muslim” in American cultural conscience.

The rumors (or smears) on Obama were never that he was a terrorist but that he was a Muslim. Go back to early 2007 and trace it on freeper boards or hannity forums. You will only find insinuations about Obama attending madrasas or having been to mosques. As the rumor progressed, its apogee was reached in the NYT wherein Luttwack declared that the only thing mattered is that Muslims think he is a Muslim.

So here we are, in Bill Burton’s cover, and he starts from the assumption: Rumors are that Obama is a Muslim. Now examine that depiction; note how a “Muslim” is shown. Obama is clad in what seems to be Tabligh’i garb, there is a portrait of Osama b. Laden and a burning American flag. The transference of Obama to Muslim and Muslim to Terrorist is not only seamless, but, also immediate. The “terrorist fist jab” is another point in case. When that characterization took place (Hezbollah does that!), the readings on Debbie Schlussl and Michelle Malkin etc. was not that Obama or Michelle were terrorists. Taking my reading a tad further, the Michelle is obviously an add-on (Dear Wiki, if all Muslims are terrorists and which Black folks are also terrorist?).

Of course, I do think that the cover is funny – insofar as we all assume that all Muslims are terrorists. Which I habitually do. The New Yorker can elide all differences between a Muslim and a terrorist because those associations are realistically generalizable. Our rumor-based society gets what it deserves.

related: A Muslim Like Obama.

update: Via Juan Cole, I learn that CAIR does protest.

Reading List

Looking over the list (love that Excel Bible), I can’t help but think that any of the books mentioned in this older Middle East Greatest Hits list would be a far better choice.

Also, Juan Cole’s Napolean’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East just went paperback.

[List via Angry Arab]

ps. Only 30 copies of “Understanding Arabs: A Guide For Modern Times”? After all it has such excellent analysis (p. 57-58):

Among Arabs time is not as fixed and rigidly segmented as it tends to be among Westerners. It flows from past to present to future, and Arabs flow with it.

The Arabic word (and sentence) Ma’alish represents an entire way of looking at life and its frustrations. It means “Never mind” or “It doesn’t matter” or “Excuse me – it’s not that serious.” You will hear this said frequently when someone has had a delay, a disappointment, or an unfortunate experience. Rather than give in to pointless anger, Arabs often react to impersonally caused adversity with resignation and, to some extent, an acceptance of their fate.

Initial reactions by your Arab counterparts to your suggestions, ideas and proposals can be quite misleading if taken at face value. Arabs are not likely to criticize openly but are more likely to hint that changes are needed or to give more subtle indications that the proposal is unacceptable – by inaction, for instance.

If only Iraq was an impersonally caused adversity….

update: And another list…