October 22, 2009

The Hijabi in the White House

As Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson -- a.k.a. the congressman with guts who shot to fame with his "if you get sick, Republicans want you to die quickly" speech -- said the other day:
"I understand what the (President Obama is) doing, and you know, people attack him and he turns the other cheek, just like a good Muslim would do."
He's only joking, of course. Obama has always said he's Christian.

(I, for one, have my doubts. I suspect he's preternaturally calm and unflappable because he's a secret philosophical Buddhist, in the Stephen Batchelor vein. After all, his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng has described herself as a philosophical Buddhist.)

But from NPR comes an October 22, 2009, report sure to drive right wingnuts into a frenzy: Faith-Based Council Produces Muslim Celebrity.
Dalia Mogahed, a Muslim, is one of 25 people President Obama tapped to advise him on faith issues. She may have met the president exactly once, but to Muslims, she's a celebrity — thanks to the headscarf, or hijab, she wears every day.
The Egyptian-born Mogahed is not, repeat not, the Islamic adviser to the president. She has repeatedly denied being so. She is "not there to represent Islam." She's just one of 25 people tapped by Obama to advise him on faith issues.

She's sharing research "we've done on the opinions of Muslims around the world," Mogahed says. Right now, "those opinions have swung sharply in favor of the United States."

So far so good. But scroll down to the comments section of the NPR report and you will see that we are still a country divided by the belief in a common God. (Beware: There are some truly ugly comments.)

I think Obama should dispense with the faith-based council. (Not to mention, if there is any taxpayer funding involved, it would be unconstitutional.) The founding fathers believed in the separation of church and state. Of course, Obama won't, because we as a nation make the mistake of believing that religious faith is a good thing, and he doesn't have the balls to stop paying lip service to religion. But for so long as we continue to enshrine religion in the public arena, the "us versus them" religious infighting among Americans will never end.

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