A fourth-grader could probably explain the negative impacts of discrimination, and the need to socially accept people of various cultures and faiths. We take pride in having either the first female, or more increasingly likely, the first African-American as a serious presidential candidate. Truly a milestone, isn't it?
Not so fast. With a country as advanced as the United States of America, it would be befitting to assume that in the 21st century we are ready to put aside our race and culture and vote for the best commander in-chief. Yet, when Geraldine Ferraro – the first and only VP candidate to date – made comments suggesting that Senator Obama was "in this position" only because of his race, the media and the Obama camp went up in arms. Rightfully so, it is expected that the highest post in the American government be based on nothing but skills, leadership and intelligence.
Alongside the need to consistently bring up Senator Obama's race in this election, there have been numerous attempts to link the candidates to their faith. Ex-GOP candidate Mitt Romney faced a great deal of pressure to explain his Mormon faith or more importantly, the clear and direct approach that the Senator from Illinois has taken to distance himself from Islam.
Without a doubt, Obama has every right to clear his religious beliefs. He is a Christian and not a Muslim – we got that the first hundred times he said that. The need to satisfy the Jewish community and reinforce their belief that Senator Obama is NOT a Muslim has become an important part of his campaign. Why? Being the fastest growing religion and holding a greater number of believers than the Catholic Church, Islam is a world religion. The approach Obama and his camp have taken has been within their right: to simply explain he is not a Muslim. But why treat it like a disease? Why are the American people – more rightly so – Jewish Americans so concerned with having a Muslim president?
Islam has been preached by Western politicians and in particular the fear-mongering Republican Party as the new plague – a disease that is fast catching on and one that needs to be stopped in its tracks. The creation and belief that every Muslim is a fundamentalist, a living terrorist – one who lives for the sole purpose of destroying the western peoples and their culture - is the cause of the existence of Islamophobia.
Numerous polls highlighting Obama's elect-ability have asked, "Why would you not vote for Obama?" and one of the possible answers remains to be "because he is a Muslim" – even though he is not. Why are we so afraid to have a Muslim president? Are we really ready for change, a change we can believe in? The needs of every community, every society and every ally is center stage in this election – yet the very candidate that promises change is running away from the myth of being a Muslim. Why not simply say: "No, I am not a Muslim, but what's wrong in being a Muslim?"
"Everywhere I go, people are standing up and saying we're ready for change," Senator Obama once said. Are they really? Or, maybe, a fear of Islam and Muslims doesn't count as something that needs to be changed.