Ralph Nader Reaches Out to Muslim Americans

Ralph Nader held a press conference today outside the Grand Mosque Islamic Center in Washington DC. Nader also recently challenged John McCain and Barack Obama to visit a mosque before the election. Below is a brief excerpt from his letter:

As you know, discriminatory acts against Muslim-Americans have soared in recent years. They emanate from stereotyping, ethnic profiling, bigotry and, unfortunately, actions by some local, state & federal officials. The documentation is broad and deep on this unfortunate situation that spreads fear and anxiety among millions of Muslim-Americans…Out of respect for Muslim-Americans who have served in all the dimensions of our society from the professions to the armed forces, from the trades to the arts and sciences, from blue collar to white collar work, while raising their children to surpass their own achievements as befits the American horizon, we [the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign] urge you to visit a Mosque before November 4, 2008.”

(Full Text of the letter from VoteNader.org)

To the best of my knowledge neither Obama nor McCain have gone anywhere near a mosque during the entirety of their Presidential campaigns (and please feel to correct me if I’m wrong about this). What I do recall is that Obama’s campaign have done whatever they can to distance themselves from Muslim Americans, even to the point of excluding hijab-wearing supporters from photos. Heaven forbid Obama be seen next to a Muslim! And as this article makes clear, Obama has by and large ignored the Muslim community, even in swing states like Michigan.

We can probably attribute some of this reluctance to the various rumors about being a “secret Muslim”. But nevertheless, I think Obama’s actions show that he buys into the pervasive Islamophobia that has gripped this nation since 9/11. Indeed, by refusing to confront the issue head on, he is legitimizing the smears and implications made by his opponents.

What Obama should have done, when asked if he was a Muslim, was respond by saying “I’m afraid I don’t have the honor.” If pressed further, he should have questioned the implications of using “Muslim” as a smear. By refusing to call his critics on their racism and bigotry, Obama implies that being called a Muslim is in fact an insult.

Muslim Americans, when voting you should think of all the issues—but you should also remember how the various Presidential candidates addressed or didn’t address your community. You are Americans as much as any other religious or cultural group, and deserve to be treated as such by any presumptive President.

Belated Eid Mubarak, by the way.

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~ by Kimchi on October 4, 2008.

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