Why the Obfuscation?

I continue to find curious this whole Obama-is-a-closet-Muslim thing. Obama’s stepfather was a Muslim. Obama lived in Indonesia, a Muslim majority country for six years. Obama was enrolled in school as a Muslim, where he learned a curriculum that included Islamic studies. Obama attended Mosque. The record indicates that, during a significant stretch of his life, Obama was recognized as a Muslim.

I don’t have a problem with Obama having been recognized as a Muslim. His experiences with Islam could actually be a selling point; we need politicians who understand Islam. Moreover, I don’t have a problem with right-wingers trying to figure out exactly what Obama’s experiences with Islam are; Obama’s characterizations of his experiences are clearly deceptive. He invites skepticism.

What I do have a problem with is Obama’s constant touting of his Christian faith and denials of any significant involvement with Islam. He is downplaying perhaps his strongest selling point (there is not a lot to recommend him, frankly) while, at the same time, fueling the Islam-is-bad theme. Why, if Islam is a respectable religion, is it so terrible for Obama to have been identified as a Muslim while living in Indonesia?

Of course, context is everying. I predict that, if elected, Obama’s experiences with Islam will become a major selling point to the international community in the project to re-legitimize US global hegemony. Indeed, I suspect this is the plan: elect a black man with African roots, a popular Arabic name (Hussein), and a life history of significant experiences with Islam. Why else would the establishment get behind a half-African candidate with radical southside Chicago ties.

This brings me to the overwhelming condemnation of Jerome Corsi’s book Obama Nation and how weak the arguments are. On Larry King Live, Frank James dances around the subject of Obama’s experiences in Indonesia, treating something that is not controversial in itself as a smear that must be denied, though without any rational refutation of Corsi’s interpretation of the facts. Paul Waldman, who also appears on the program, does no better.

What becomes clear is that Obama backers realize that the facts at the core of Obama’s Indonesian experience, along with facts beyond Indonesia (his claim that he is a life-long Christian is contradicted by his own statements on faith), undermines Obama’s claims about his life-long religious experiences. What is controversial is the manner in which Obama has distorted his personal history on this matter. The corporate media is working overtime to make Obama’s deception on this matter appear innocent.

Finally, there is this example of twisted logic and the most vile type of ad hominem attack from James:

One of Corsi’s claims to credibility is his doctorate in political science from Harvard University. His Ph.D appears after his name on the cover and title page of the book.

But a Ph.D. isn’t necessarily proof that your worldview is well-grounded. Anyone who doubts that need only consider Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, a University of Michigan Ph.D in mathematics.

As Frank himself notes, Kaczynski had a advanced degree in mathematics. This makes Kaczynski an expert in mathematics not politics, which is a key area of expertise at issue in a political campaign. Corsi’s degree is in – drum roll – politics. This makes him an expert in the field in which he is writing! Second, Frank is comparing Corsi to a serial murderer, and, while Corsi may be many things (e.g. apparently a bigot for having criticized the way the Catholic church covered up the widespread molestation of youth by its priests), he hasn’t been sending mail bombs to the US postal service.

I am still waiting for Obama to simply say the following: “I realize that some 12 percent of US citizens believe I am a Muslim. To them I say, ‘That’s fine,’ and then ask, ‘Vote for me anyway, since there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim.” Obama running away from a rumor that he is a member of a respectable religious movement (isn’t that we are all told?) is the problem here, not books that document the facts of Obama’s experiences with Islam.


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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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