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Blog Archive – October, 2008

Colin Powell endorses more than Democratic candidate Obama

October 20, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Late in the game, the assumption that Muslim is a stain on one’s character has been challenged. Finally.

The challenge came not from the candidate who should have rebutted the personal attacks, not from the progressive press who allowed the innuendoes to mount, not from the Muslim leadership in the US, not from the only Muslim member of the US Congress, not from Muslims members of the Democratic Party, loyal to the young inspiring candidate, Obama, despite his proudly stated devotion to Israel and its Zionist aims.

The challenge and lesson came from a leading military figure, a former Secretary of State, a Republican Party luminary: Colin Powell.

In an October 19 TV interview, the former secretary of state announced his endorsement for the Democratic Party candidate. There Powell made a point to speak at length about the unmentionable, being Muslim. Why do we treat Muslim identity here as something negative, as un-American, he asked? Powell read the references and retorts to Obama’s possible Muslim background as I and other Muslims did: it was wrong to deny it, and objectionable to suggest it was not something fine. What if an aspirant to the White House were Muslim? So what? That should be as acceptable as any religious identity.

This is an excerpt from Powell’s interview on Sunday’s “Meet the Press”. In reference to questions regarding Obama’s religion, he said: “Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not American. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? ….. "Yet", Powell went on, “ I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America"

The good general then recounts a photo of an American mother at the Arlington cemetery graveside of her soldier son, who died at the age of 20. His name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. "The symbol on his tombstone is the Islamic star and crescent", he takes the time in the interview to point out.

Powell is making more than a political point here. Powell expresses his dismay and objections to the many negative references coming from the McCain camp regarding Muslim identity in the country. But it appears that he is not unaware that the Democratic and so-called liberal community are as guilty of the anti-Muslim bias that disturbs him. Powell is directing his remarks to the entire country, including its leaders. And I cannot help feeling that he is also defining a possible new path for the young Obama. Because by endorsing the Democratic candidate in this context, Colin Powell is surely also endorsing the goodness of being Muslim in America. He is breaking a taboo for the soon-to-be occupant of the White House who, although during his election campaign he may be obliged to bend to Christian and Jewish pressures, as a president, he has to embrace the Muslim is a more mature way.

For those of us who look to the Democratic Party as the beacon of higher social values, of religious inclusiveness and expressed concern for human rights and equal treatment, we have been dismayed at times, feeling no party or leader represents our values. It seemed the party platform was being managed by select interest groups. Muslim and Arab Americans were being shunted aside. Where does one turn at such a critical time, when we have must hope it is possible to restore democratic and universal ideals and to mend broken trust around the world? It is sobering that a voice of maturity, reason and healing emerges from the ranks of the Republican Party, in the person of Colin Powell, a Black American leader, a military man.

[ Colin Powell endorses more than Democratic candidate Obama ]

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