- In a December 18 column headlined "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim" and posted on her website, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel argued that because Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) middle name is Hussein, his late, estranged father was of Muslim descent, and he has shown interest in his father's Kenyan heritage, Obama's "loyalties" must be called into question as he emerges as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. In the column, Schlussel asked: "So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian ... is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?" She ended her column by asking if Obama becoming vice president instead would be acceptable. Answering her own question, she wrote: "NO WAY, JOSE ... Or, is that, HUSSEIN?"
The Media Matters piece goes on to explore how, factually speaking, this entire smear, as it were, of Obama is utter tripe. It also discusses how this represents a growing trend of smearing both Obama and anyone of Muslim background or heritage who holds public office.
This last point is especially a problem, and really driven home by Schlussel's remark that
- we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam
Schlussel, who in most regards is a second-tier right-wing pundit anyway, nonetheless represents a formulation we've seen increasingly (including during Roy Moore's tantrum over Keith Ellison) saying not that we are at war with terrorists or Al Qaeda, but that we are at war with Islam itself.
What these right-wingers fail to remember is they are playing directly into Osama bin Laden's hands.
Remember, as I remarked early on in this conflict:
- Osama bin Laden wants you to make this into an Islam-vs.-the-West conflict. That was the explicit purpose behind 9/11.
The more that conservatives make the rest of Islam culpable for 9/11, the more they make enemies of our allies in the Islamic world. These include such major strategic partners as Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Their own Republican president has been working hard not to allow this to turn into an anti-Islamic crusade. Yet their own ignorance about the nature of Islam is nonetheless increasing the chances that the "war on terror" could explode into an uncontrollable global cultural conflict.
People like Debbie Schlussel and Roy Moore (not to mention Ann Coulter) provide recruitment fodder for radical Islamists who want nothing more than to portray Americans as engaged in a war against the whole of Islam. Because these Islamists know that by doing so, they can turn their tiny faction of radical terrorists into a massive army supported by a religion adhered to by many millions of people around the world.
Osama bin Laden doesn't need propagandists in America. He's got people like Schlussel doing his work for him.