I was depressed but not surprised to see news of a poll this morning that almost a fifth of Americans think Barack Obama, their President, is a secretly pracitisng muslim. More worrying still, in a country where the religion, especially of a president, is seen as a key belief, those that think he’s a Christian has fallen from 43 to 34%.
Driven in a large part by the right-wing conversatives, above all in the media (Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, take a bow) it would be almost amusing if it wasn’t alarming. Clinging to the tenet that his middle name – Hussein – and schooling in Indonesia must’ve contributed to this, and the concious feeling that, unlike his very publicly god-fearing (and communicating, if you beleive Dubya) predecessor, he’s not visibily religious enough, those that oppose him politically and ideologically are slowly eroding his image. Most worrying of all, some of those whose minds have changed are his own supporters.
With the mid-terms approaching, this is another worrying statistic in a long and difficult term for a president that deserves a lot better from his people and his country.
Islam is taking a hammering in the US press at the moment, most of all from the traditional right-wing (read: intolerant) suspects over its so-called increasing influence in America. Witness the reaction over the plans to build the ‘9/11 mosque’ (an Islamic centre to be run by an organisation that aims to build bridges between the Islamic and Western world, but why let the truth get in the way of a good polemic?) near Ground Zero in New York recently – and the battle is still ongoing – to see that Islam is under fire as much as any time since that terrible day in September 2001.
But even more worry is now placed on the Eid festival this year, which falls on or near September 11th. For Muslims this is a celebration of the end of Ramadan, a religious period of fasting that goes back to the very core of their beliefs, but there’s a real danger that certain parties in the United States will use any show of elation as Islam glorifying the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001.
With some of the reaction in the US over the decision to go ahead with the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero (a church’s “burn the Qu’ran day” and “Islam is EVIL” signs being some of the most shameful) coupled with growing Republican support, particularly from the far-right ‘Tea Party’ movement in the last year, September 11th 2010 is likely to be arguably the most tense anniversary of the terrible day since the event, but one can only hope that it can be treated with some perspective, and some understanding, a reminder that the US constitution is based on freedoms, including that of religion, and that all religions should be resepected, however unlikely that may be.
The worry is that those that seek to spread the message that Islam = Al Qaeda, and that all Muslims supported 9/11 – shocking untruths that still are too readily accepted by those that hear what they want to believe – will use this unfortunate clash to “prove” that the Islamic world and terrorists are one and the same. One can only hope that sense wins out, and this vocal minority (and it is, thankfully, whatever you feel of the US, still that) is put in its place. We are, after all, still claiming we live in a civilsed society where freedom still has value. And that, after all, should extend to everyone, not just those that we feel it should.
After what’s been a two year period of embarrassing stories, accusations of racism, cronyism, and malpractice and mismanangement, that cost the life of an innocent Brazillian, Sir Ian Blair is finally leaving his post as head of the Met Police.
While Boris Johnson should be applauded (yes, I can’t believe that I’ve said that) for making his mark this early in office, the reality is that he should’ve been out a long time ago. For a police for that’s been shown to be institutionally racist, to have not one but two accusations of discrimination against him and his force, not to mention the PR disasters of Forest Gate, Walthamstow, and of course the terrible events of Stockwell, as head of it, he should have taken responsibility for the position he holds, and walked. But the truth is, for someone that was so close to Blair, he was never going to give up his reign.
It’s going to be a legacy of his time in office, much like his namesake, that he’d been party to some shocking decisions, some terrible events, and huge evidence of this against him, he refused to feel blame, refused to take responsibility, and refused to believe he was wrong. Thank god that he’s finally gone, and the force can hopefully get new blood in at the top and start to change and to take responsibility for its actions. Despite some of the daft reactions to his departure (“it’s a disgrace and he was a credit to the city”, no doubt from a NIMBY Daily Mail reader in Notting Hill) it can only be a good thing for the city. But for it to be truly worth it there needs to be wholesale change, and not another crony appointed at the top. I’m not holdig my breath.