Do you recall what was revealed?

In my tentative notes on Barack Obama’s speech to “the Muslim world” in Cairol last week, I observed that in significant respects Obama appeared to address Muslims from inside a Muslim perspective.

Thus his address to the “ummah” and thus his endorsement of the Muslim account of the founding of Israel as a catastrophe for the Arabs of the Palestinian mandate. Obama omitted any mention of the long Jewish connection to the land of Israel. He invoked only the Holocaust to explain Israel’s establishment. According to Charles Krauthammer, no American president has ever done more to delegitimize the state of Israel than Obama did in three minutes of his Cairo speech.

Frank Gaffney takes a close look at the text of the speech and asks — recalling Toni Morrison’s citation of murmurings among black men that Bill Clinton was America’s first black president (“Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime”) — whether Obama is America’s first Muslim president.

For those with short memories, let us pause to note Morrison’s explanation of Clinton’s purported blackness. According to Morrison, Clinton “display[ed] almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.” Morrison added that “when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and body-searched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke?” Certainly not Morrison.

Ironically, Morrison outlined a kind of “raising the bar” theme that Michelle Obama articulated on behalf of her husband against the Clintons during the campaign. Morrison found the the message of Bill Clinton’s suffering (Clinton’s passion?) to be clear: “No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and–who knows?–maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.”

Applying the same standard of “identity politics and pandering” that earned Clinton his blackness in Morrison’s eyes, Gaffney asserts that Obama “would have to be considered America’s first Muslim president.” Gaffney makes a stronger case regarding Obama’s Islamic perspective than Morrison did regarding Clinton’s metaphorical blackness. Gaffney goes so far as to argue that Obama “may still be [a Muslim] himself” based on the following points about the Cairo speech:

• Obama referred four times in his speech to “the Holy Koran.” Non-Muslims — even pandering ones — generally don’t use that Islamic formulation.

• Mr. Obama established his firsthand knowledge of Islam (albeit without mentioning his reported upbringing in the faith) with the statement, “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.” Again, “revealed” is a depiction Muslims use to reflect their conviction that the Koran is the word of God, as dictated to Muhammad.

• Then the president made a statement no believing Christian — certainly not one versed, as he professes to be, in the ways of Islam — would ever make. In the context of what he euphemistically called the “situation between Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs,” Mr. Obama said he looked forward to the day “. . . when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.”

On the last point, Gaffney argues that the term “peace be upon them” is invoked by Muslims as a way of blessing deceased holy men: “According to Islam, that is what all three were – dead prophets. Of course, for Christians, Jesus is the living and immortal Son of God.”

Gaffney to the contrary notwithstanding, I don’t believe that Obama might be Muslim. But in his Cairo speech Obama does appear to speak from somewhere inside a Muslim perspective.

In his Cairo speech Obama alluded to Minnesota’s own Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (the first Muslim elected to Congress) as a marvelous example of the toleration of Islam in America. Last year I traced the path from Ellison to Obama. In his person Ellison embodies the melding of the Democratic left with Islamist forces at home and abroad. It remains to be seen, however, what branch of Islam can be reconciled with the Democratic platform on abortion, homosexual rights and feminism.

PAUL adds: Krauthammer is one of my heroes and I also respect Gaffney, but I don’t agree with either in this case. Indeed, Gaffney’s claim that Obama is our first Muslim president is quite far-fetched (as was Morrison’s statement that Clinton was our first black president, but Morrison is not a serious analyst) and his suggestion that Obama may be a Muslim seems baseless.

Obama was engaged in Muslim “outreach.” In my opinion, that’s a fool’s errand and probably dangerous too — as it was when President Bush tried it. But if you’re going to make the attempt in a serious way, then it makes sense to throw around the various catch-phrases that Gaffney cites and, more generally, to speak to Muslims from “inside their perspective “.

I also disagree with Krauthammer’s claim that Obama made statements that delegitimize the state of Israel. I hope to explain why when I have more time.


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