Chicago Tribune religion writer ignores Obama's comments urging "respect and dignity" for Muslims

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Chicago Tribune religion writer Manya Brachear wrote that Barack Obama, in responding to "repeated and false claims" that he is a "closet Muslim," has "reiterate[d] that he is a committed Christian. But he stops short of saying that being Muslim wouldn't be a bad thing. In addition to setting the record straight about his own faith, should Obama also give a shout-out to his Muslim brothers and sisters and defend Islam?" But the previous day, during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Obama had said, "I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of respect and dignity."

In a January 23 entry to her Chicago Tribune weblog The Seeker, religion writer Manya Brachear wrote that the "repeated and false claims that Democratic presidential candidate [Sen.] Barack Obama [IL] is a closet Muslim have prompted the candidate to reiterate that he is a committed Christian." Brachear continued: "But he stops short of saying that being Muslim wouldn't be a bad thing. In addition to setting the record straight about his own faith, should Obama also give a shout-out to his Muslim brothers and sisters and defend Islam?" Brachear concluded her blog entry by asking: "What do you think? Should Obama defend Islam or stick to clarifying the facts about his own faith?" In fact, during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) on the previous day, Obama had said: "I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of respect and dignity, but to try and feed into this fear-mongering and try to question my faith commitments and my belief in Jesus Christ, I think is offensive."

Brachear also wrote: "But after a year of rumors, some Muslims say it's time for Obama to take his response a step further and remind voters that his religion shouldn't matter. They say he should take the opportunity to point out that Islam is one of the many religious traditions that makes America great." Once again, however, Obama has already done this. During a July 29, 2007, CBN interview, Obama said: "I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism. Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community."

As of this posting, Brachear has not updated her January 23 entry, nor has she acknowledged Obama's remarks on her blog.

From Brachear's January 23 blog entry, titled "Should Obama defend Muslims?":

The repeated and false claims that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a closet Muslim have prompted the candidate to reiterate that he is a committed Christian.

But he stops short of saying that being Muslim wouldn't be a bad thing. In addition to setting the record straight about his own faith, should Obama also give a shout-out to his Muslim brothers and sisters and defend Islam?

The most recent round of religious rumors about Obama started this week as Democrats stepped up their campaigns in the Bible Belt ahead of Saturday's primary.

[...]

But after a year of rumors, some Muslims say it's time for Obama to take his response a step further and remind voters that his religion shouldn't matter. They say he should take the opportunity to point out that Islam is one of the many religious traditions that makes America great.

"At this point, he should call out people's bigotry," said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of The Muslim Public Affairs Council. He and other religious leaders defended Obama when the rumor mill first fired up last year. A letter signed by 11 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders denounced the rumors as a calculated attempt to "divide us as children of God."

As the attacks continue, though, Obama should denounce "this kind of religious litmus test in politics which is anathema to our Bill of Rights and reframe the conversation," al-Marayati said. Being labeled a Muslim isn't an insult, he said.

A source familiar with the Obama campaign said that's unlikely to happen. It's not the Muslim characterization that bothers Obama. It's that his faith, which plays a significant role in his life, has been mischaracterized. Period.

"The primary goal is truth," the source said. "It's important to set the record straight."

What do you think? Should Obama defend Islam or stick to clarifying the facts about his own faith?

From Obama's January 22 CBN interview:

OBAMA: Basically the e-mail falsely states that I'm Muslim, that I pledged my oath of office on a Koran instead of a Bible, that I don't Pledge Allegiance to the flag. Scurrilous stuff. I want to make sure that your viewers understand that I am a Christian who has belonged to the same church for almost 20 years now. It's where Michelle and I got married. It's where our kids were dedicated. I took my oath of office on my family Bible.

I lead the Pledge of Allegiance when I open up the Senate. I've been saying the Pledge of Allegiance since I was three years old. I think it 's very important for people not to buy into the kinds of dirty tricks that we've become so accustomed to in our politics and people need to understand I'm not and never have been of the Muslim faith.

I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of respect and dignity, but to try and feed into this fear-mongering and try to question my faith commitments and my belief in Jesus Christ, I think is offensive. And I want to make sure that people are absolutely clear about what's going on with this, and if they get another one of these e-mails that they're deleting it and letting their friends know that it's nonsense.

From Obama's July 29, 2007, CBN interview:

OBAMA: It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn't want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.

Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.

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Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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