Saturday, January 20, 2007

Smearing Barack Obama.

The lastest news in presidential campaign politics allegedly originated with the Hillary Clinton camp. This little snippet came to me coutesy of the Glenn Beck show ("The Third Most Listened to Radio Show in America!!"), who was blathering on about a supposed "scoop" from Insight Magazine. Insight is a particularly odious, conservative internet "news magazine"... owned by cult leader and right-wing icon, Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Their contention is that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was raised a Muslim, and educated in a madrasah. (In case you don't feel like reading the rest of this post... I am under obligation to point out that this is completely false.) To understand the nature of this allegation, you have to understand what a madrasah is. It's the Arabic word for school... and it's taken on some perjorative meanings. Just as Catholic and other parochial schools in the United States integrate their own brand of religious beliefs in their educational programs, Madrasahs incorporate Islamic teachings. Since 9-11, there has been ample suspicion about the nature of madrasahs.

These Islamic schools are suspected of indoctinating students with anti-Western values. Mistrust is particularly directed at madrasahs that use an interpretation of Islam traditionally referred to as Wahhabism (followers of this approach now prefer the title "Salafism".) This is basically the fundamentalist and literal tradition of Islam, akin to Christian Evangelicals in the United States. They claim to interpret the words of Muhammed directly (sound familiar?) from the Qur'an. Schools of Wahhabi proliferated with increasing Middle Eastern oil wealth in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Wealthy Saudis have especially been known to donate large sums of money to build such schools. It is thought by many in the current US administration that al Qaeda used these madrasahs to recruit and train terrorists.

So what does any of this have to do with Barack Obama? Good question. Obama was born to a Kenyan father who divorced his wife when his son was two years old and moved back to Kenya. It is said that Barack Hussein Obama Sr. (the father) was part of the Kenyatta regime, which had a brutal record of mistreating the Kenyan people. But that's a wholly irrelevant story as far as his son is concerned. When Obama was six his mother married an Indonesian foreign student, who moved the family to Jakarta. This man was an oil manager, and a non-practicing Muslim. It was in Indonesia that Obama spent two years at a Muslim school, after which he spent two years in a Catholic School. At age ten, Obama moved to Hawaii to be raised by his maternal grandparents... and he enrolled at the Punahou School- a large private, prepatory school in Honolulu. This was a co-ed, non-sectarian school originally founded by Congregationalist missionaries. Obama and his current family are members of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.

Those are the facts. Barack Obama spent two years in a Muslim School, between the ages of six and eight. He spent just as much time at a Catholic school, and the majority of his schooling at a non-sectarian institution. One might wonder why the years he spent being indoctrinated with Catholicism or non-sectarianism are not at issue. For these seem more significant to his personal story. Whoever floated the "madrasah smear" is desperately grasping at straws. And just who is responsible for it? No one really knows. It's been purported that Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton uncovered these scurrilous accusations during background checks following Obama's formation of an exploratory committee to examine possibilities of a 2008 presidential bid. The Clinton campaign denies any involvement. Meanwhile conservative commentators have been floating such shady rumors for some time... look at this link from August of 2004.

Of course it doesn't really matter where these prevarications originated. They suit Glenn Beck's needs. In fact the right wing echo chamber is having a field day over all of this. (Just look at this idiot.) They no doubt love to parrot sketchy whisperings that the Clinton people are behind all of this. I would even hazard a guess that many of them consider their own hands clean. By innocently floating concerns that "maybe Obama is hiding something", they can shuck any legal liability by pinning the source of their "questions" on someone else. Meanwhile they stir up a hornets' nest of resentments between the two popular Democratic presidential candidates.

I can't help but detect the rotting scent of Karl Rove's corpse behind all these specious allegations.

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