When this election cycle began I expected a fair amount of shovanism, homophobia (because of Giuliani) and racism.
What I didn’t expect was anti-Muslim sentiments against a Christian candidate running for president. Perhaps this has reached a climax with debate moderator Tim Russert asking about Farrakhans endorsement of Obama.
Then Hilary Clinton tried to gain points by saying, “You asked specifically if he [Obama] would reject it [the endorsement] and there’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting.” Obama replied, “If the word ‘reject’ Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word ‘denounce’, then I’m happy to concede the point and I would reject and denounce [Farrakhan]”
Obama went on to clarify his position on the issue:
I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can’t censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we’re not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.
This isn’t the first time Islamphobia has creeped into the 2008 election. Previously both the McCain and Clinton campaign have made a big deal of Obama’s middle name, which is Hussein. Then there are the leaked photos that are designed to conjure images of radical Muslims in turbines.
But a major point of Obamas campaign has been about uniting people. He wants to see Democrats and Republicans, black and white, Mid West and East Coast all work together. Perhaps one of the most divisive divides today is none of the above, but Jew versus Muslim.
Obama needs to reach out to both groups if his message of unity is authentic. If he truly denounces Farakhan as a whole he will be alienating black Muslims. What he can do is reject his anti-Semitism which he has done. Besides, in recent years Farrakhan has even denounced his own anti-Semintic comments.
But apparently many in Jewish community realize this was a game to score cheap points. Here’s what Jewish newspaper Haartez says:
Obama, talking about Farrakhan – and about anti-Semitism among African-Americans, which he also denounced in his speech on Martin Luther King Day – touched a sensitive nerve when he was talking about one possibility that’s inherent to his candidacy: he has the chance to restore the alliance between blacks and Jews.
This will not necessarily get Obama the votes of every Jewish liberal in this country. But it is also one promise that no American liberal Jew can simply ignore.