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Arabizing Obama

There is a nefarious movement seeking to associate Barack Obama with “Arab” in the hope that this will cost him the election. This is part of a general increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim expression in American culture — both the instrumentalization of hate for political purposes and its frightening resonance with popular fears.

Arab-baiting takes place in public accusations aired on Fox News, and in Youtube videos, such as this slideshow that seeks to explain Obama is actually 7/16ths Arab and therefore misrepresenting himself as an African-American.


A slightly less ludicrous and potentially more dangerous accusation is their attempt to taint Obama by linking him to “terrorist” professors, meaning Arab scholars who dare question American and Israeli policies from a position of learning, and actual, rather than imagined knowledge. One pathetic proponent of this linkage is American Thinker, which has been running attacks on Rashid Khalidi, and trying to use Obama’s past acquaintanceship with the Columbia University professor as a political point of attack. The blog, which claims to value thinking, refuses to publish one critical comment on that post (the one I submitted days ago is yet to go up, and likely never will).

Daniel Pipes appeared on Fox’s Hannity’s America (the scariest kind) to make the same claim. The report was actually beautifully constructed propaganda, full of colorful montages, emotional and visceral background strings, and lastly, no one to speak in defense of the friendship (that would be too fair and balanced).


It rested on insinuations and speculation about Khalidi’s membership in the PLO, role in organizing Ahmedinejad’s speech at the campus, as well as enormous unsubstantiated assumptions (such as the indefensibility of Israel’s displacement and occupation of the Palestinians). The highlight insinuation was that Obama is getting cues from Khalidi. The professor’s use of “sore” to describe Israel-Palestine in an article preceded Obama’s use of it as well. Though this dated back to June, 2008, there was no attempt to explain how Israelis themselves don’t see it as a sore. Meaning, it is a charge with no substance.

So it came as no surprise when yesterday, at a townhall meeting with supporters in Minnesota, McCain was booed after correcting a woman who called Obama “an Arab”. Perhaps even more disturbing was his response that “no, I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent man.”


With such a hateful climate — symbolized with the wide distribution of 28 million “Obsession” DVDs aimed at showing Islam as a threat to America — it is little wonder hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims persist. A Mosque in Ohio was attacked with noxious gas. This past week, a Muslim was pistol-whipped by a masked man in the bathroom of an Illinois bathroom. Anti-Muslim graffiti which read “kill all Muslims” and a swastika were scrawled on the walls.

Fortunately, the campus of the small Christian college came out to support the victim. They represent the chief obstacle to this mounting hate.

Though I can only guess that vilifying Islam, Arab politics and respected scholars and linking Obama to them leads to ethnocentric alarmism, and hate crimes, I think this is safe to assume. This is frighteningly close to the types of hysteria that has caused serious violence and destabilization in other parts of the world. While many would hope this is constrained by the rule of law in modern America, in the case of continued economic downturn, this will not be a pretty country for foreigners and minorities.

This may sound like a mirror image of their alarmism, except that the logical end of my alarmism is tolerance and rational discourse. The logical end of their’s is a exclusivist society with no tolerance for difference.

As the Politico article linked above makes clear, no elite nor media have addressed these attacks, but as long as Arabs and Muslims are used as political wedges, the candidates need to address this before xenophobic loonies get too crazy. The safety of millions of Arabs and Muslims is at stake — the irony is that no one will recognize these hate crimes for what they are, terrorism. And political rhetoric should not fuel this.

[tarboush tip: Kumar]

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No Responses to “Arabizing Obama”

  1. Great post as usual Will, I do beg to differ on small one point. I don’t think that McCain necessarily meant that Arab does not equal decent. Too hard to tell from that context, he was responding more to the general hate-mongering (i hope). Seems too tenuous to equate a quick response as he was trying to shut her down with that kind of a charge. In any event the tenor of his campaign stokes this kind of thinking in any event.

    I could be wrong on this too, lots of sites are having a healthy debate on this.


    I would say this, those “town halls” are so tightly controlled I really believe that the McCain staff let a few people they knew would say venomous things ask questions so McCain could be an “honorable” guy and defend Obama. On the flips side, our favorite maverick has done this in the past so there is a chance it was genuine.

    Posted by Nimr | October 11, 2008, 11:48 am
  2. “This past week, a Muslim was pistol-whipped by a masked man in the bathroom of an Illinois bathroom.” Yikes!!

    Was that really a hate crime? Chicago can be a really nasty place; both discriminate and lavish in social order.

    So this is saying: “You may be my enemy, but you aren’t my friend?”

    Obama, whether Muslim or African-American is “from Illinois, via Chicago Political system.”

    Do you remember the riots in Detroit that destroyed the city…? Look again at background scenes from RoboCop in the burned out city. Those are the result of liberal governance of the time. The “liberal” mayor of Detroit did nothing to insure the safety and indemnity of the city dwellers back then. On the other hand…

    Those same riot organizers then went across the lake to Chicago and his honor the mayor Richard Daley, Sr met them at the border and drew a line. He defined conservative political machine for the next century in Chicago. Re: Daley’s son is now the mayor, and indefeatable.

    In short that system that faced down riotous anarchists puts each “sect” in its own neighborhood. It draws lines for each Irish, Polish, Swedish, Muslim, Hindi… and so on. This segregation is the dynamic behind Obama’s group. Divide, segregate and conquer is a better motto for Obama.

    Now if Obama’s sentiment is in the ball court of the Muslim, well it might have more to do with Chicago’s aspect of separatist, anti-rugged individualism that is contrary to affirmative action USA.

    For example: You see, Texans do not like New Yorkers as much as The New York Yankees do not like the Boston Red Sox…

    Is that a confusing analogy? Well, how about this one: as it is with Zionists it is with Palestinians. The dislikes run in segregationist lines… no?

    Hey, Texans and Zionists even try building walls to define isolationist thinking.

    I truly think at this point in the campaigns that the voices you are hearing in those Town Meetings are real voices of people who normally stay quiet, and pay their taxes.

    I also know that some high-roller somewhere told McCain he could run for president this time… but he couldn’t win. And I truly think that same high-roller expected Hillary to have been the Democrats’ candidate.

    So, in context of larger arena as you have here: “This is frighteningly close to the types of hysteria that has caused serious violence and destabilization in other parts of the world…
    … I conclude that yes this current of people in the United States is a melting pot of the whole world, and all that hysteria travels with those who come here.

    I think Obama will follow segregation rules of organization and attempt to control Muslims and all others in Business as usual, and will not as you say: This may sound like a mirror image of their alarmism, except that the logical end of my alarmism is tolerance and rational discourse.

    Rather we will continue to see: “..The logical end of their’s is a exclusivist society with no tolerance for difference.”

    Good stuff for debate, eh? Thanks

    Posted by MooPig_Wisdom | October 11, 2008, 1:00 pm
  3. The problem with all this is so much is contradictory, he’a a Muslim, he’s a follower of a radical black Christian, he’s a black racist, he’s an Arab. I can’t keep up.

    Not much evidence for much of it that I can find. “Proof” on a blog is usually a link to another blog.

    The real problems with the chap I think are:

    a) He is inexperienced.

    b) He has made very bad judgements in those he has backed, like the reverend whatsit and Odinga, simply because of superficial allegiances of being black or Luo origin.

    c) Mainly, he is a lefty. I suspect he will pour vast sums into ill thought out and innefective schemes to improve the lots of blacks. The last thing any group needs is indiscriminate state handouts, it destroys incentives.

    On the other side, while McCain seems ok, he is 72 and Palin would be VP. Enough said. That repulsive woman should be shot.

    Posted by xoggoth | October 12, 2008, 4:02 am
  4. Nimr,

    Good point. I wrote below what she basically said in full (which the video above does not fairly show I just realized):

    Question: “I gotta ask you a question. I do not believe in… I can’t trust him…. I read about him, and he’s not, he’s not, eh… He’s an Arab… He’s not… no?”

    McCain: “No, maam. No maam. He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

    My friend convinced me that it is hard enough to cross a supporter, especially a room of them booing you.

    I agree with you that it was likely staged, or atleast they knew McCain could use this to appeal to the middle. It is strikingly at odds with what Palin is saying, and what they are suggesting in the Ayers ads, really. So it could seem they are doing what most presidential candidates do, try to look presidential when their underlings do the dirty work.

    So far, Obama’s campaign seems to me at least to running a much cleaner campaign. Then again, who know what they had planned in case he was down far in the polls this close to election day.


    Posted by Will | October 12, 2008, 6:22 am
  5. Okay, who gave the crazy cat lady the mic?

    That first video is ridiculous. “Obama’s father is part Arabic” – really, what is he, a taa marbuuta? Seriously.

    Posted by Jillian | October 12, 2008, 11:06 am
  6. Jillian, how can you be so callous? I am, in fact, an illegitimate love child of a taa-marbuuta and and the letter M. Society refused to accept their love…

    Posted by Nimr | October 12, 2008, 12:47 pm
  7. This is incredible!

    We have a very influential pro-Israel lobby here in Australia, but there is no way in hell that this sort of bias would be permitted to go to air. That said, one our most famous exports to the US, Rupert Murdoch, owns Fox and it is hardly surprising that this despicable attempt to degrade Obama continues unabated.

    I’m glad I’m here and not there.

    Posted by MM | October 12, 2008, 10:38 pm
  8. where is the arab lobby? they never seem to have one.

    Posted by Mo | October 13, 2008, 7:31 am
  9. ""where is the arab lobby? they never seem to have one.""

    Uh, what?

    I seem to recall Kissinger dropping off the 9/11 commission, for instance, rather than disclose the clients list for Kissinger & Associates…

    Posted by Joe | October 13, 2008, 5:18 pm
  10. my response was to mm. Sorry, should have made it more clear.

    Posted by Mo | October 13, 2008, 9:16 pm

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