Calvin Freiburger

Obama Discovers Flip Side of Identity Politics as Muslim Groups Give Him Failing Marks

Posted on May 18 2011 6:07 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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The honeymoon’s over.

It seems another demographic group Democrats once took for granted is snapping out of Obama fever. At the Daily Beast, David Graham reports that American Muslims don’t think the president’s actions match his pro-Islam rhetoric. Aside from insisting that Islam is a religion of peace and appointing a few Muslims to important positions, Obama hasn’t met enough with American Muslim groups or “remade the political landscape for Muslims”:

“Just like the last time, we’re quite happy if any president offers positive rhetoric toward the Muslim world or Islam, but it really needs to be backed up with concrete policy initiatives,” says Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading American Muslim group. “We’re still in Afghanistan, we’re still in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian situation has gone south. We’re not there—we’re just continuing with the previous policies.”

It’s not just foreign policy. Across the board, Muslims are expressing disappointment with Obama’s progress on issues relevant to them in the domestic policy realm. What they express is not so much anger as disillusionment, a recognition that the president hasn’t remade the political landscape for Muslims. (American Muslim opinions mirror international opinions. A Pew survey released Tuesday finds that citizens in majority Muslim countries remain skeptical of Obama.)


Exhibit A is the Park51 project, the proposed mosque and Islamic center in Lower Manhattan that opponents dubbed the “ground zero mosque”. After delivering what appeared to be a full-throated defense of the project, he walked back his comments the next day, saying, “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.” It was a crucial litmus test for many American Muslims—and one that Obama failed. “He’s still missing the political courage to stand up for communities, and not just Muslim communities,” says Shireen Zaman, the executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank on Muslim issues.

As the Left always does when discussing different ethnic groups, it’s simply assumed at the outset that the positions cited are intrinsically anti-Muslim.

Whatever you think of the wisdom of starting or continuing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both conflicts were waged against specific governments the United States determined to be enemies, not against Muslims generally; indeed, both wars liberated their Muslim populations from nightmarish despots and gave them a genuine shot at liberty, so one could just as easily call a premature withdrawal from either theater anti-Muslim for enabling a descent back into totalitarianism.

Similarly, supporting the Ground Zero Mosque is only “pro-Muslim” to the extent that we associate that particular mosque with the radicalism of its organizers. Do Graham and Zaman mean to suggest that most American Muslims want sharia to be preached from a bloody site of Islamic conquest? The implication is far more Islamophobic than anything the average conservative has to say on the subject. And yes, that is the implication—considering that over 100 mosques have gone up in New York City without a peep from right-wing hatemongers, why make this particular mosque the litmus test for American tolerance?

Aside from CAIR-approved action on the preceding issues, just what are these groups looking for? What would a “remade political landscape for Muslims” look like? I submit that the United States doesn’t need to become more pro-Muslim. Polls indicate that the American people overwhelmingly distinguish between peaceful Muslims and jihad sympathizers, and a comprehensive study from the Center for Security Policy reveals that Muslims are targeted by hate crimes at comparable levels to Christians, and to a much lower degree than Jews. If anything, we go overboard in our fear of offending Muslims, as in the case of Ft. Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan. We bend over backwards to avoid discussing the theological roots of our terrorist enemies.

For Obama, this is another demonstration that it takes a lot more than the sparkling personality of The One to satisfy people—responsible policymaking can’t help but offend somebody, and not every special-interest demand is susceptible to reason.

For the rest of the country, this should highlight the folly of leftist identity politics. Human beings are first and foremost individuals, and should evaluate political issues based on the facts and principles involved, not on superficial affinities for particular stances and groups that have been imposed by the Left.  The Founders warned us about such exploitation of factional impulses—it not only confuses and oversimplifies issues, all but guaranteeing worse policy, but it also conditions us to divide into insular cultural camps and practice the very us-vs-them thinking the Left claims to oppose.

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