Claims that Obama concealed nonnative birth or faith in Islam failed to gain mainstream traction, but conservatives like Sean Hannity were more successful in labeling Obama as covertly “anti-American” based on his association with the incendiary pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. By this logic, Obama was a paragon of Christian piety. He “savored” every word on Sunday mornings and would surely govern by these traitorous principles: his beliefs were dangerous because, well, he really believed them.
But Obama’s opponents have a new twist on this old allegation. They find evidence for his unbelief not by exposing his biblical illiteracy or shoddy church attendance, but in his failure to support “religious freedom.”
The charge that the president is a faker on religious freedom is the most recent iteration of the ongoing attack on his legitimacy: it is the new “birther” movement. It’s also a decades-old rhetorical tool of the culture wars intended to depict the entire left as frauds who supposedly stand for a tolerant open society, but who are in fact disciples of a secular pseudo-religion intent on quashing Christian influence in America.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, who has always been more provocative than his prudent father Billy, told MSNBC last week that the president lacks sufficient outrage over the plight of persecuted Christians. “Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama,” Graham said, adding that the Muslim world sees Obama as “a son of Islam” who will not challenge religious oppression. “The Muslims of the world — he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries – that’s what bothers me.” (Graham offered a half-apology on Tuesday, saying he regretted any comments that “cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president.”)
Leftwing Green (GroenLinks) leader Femke Halsema expressed criticism of Islam in an interview with newspaper De Pers, stating that the religion is “of course a problem”. The statement was a response to the newspaper’s suggestion that the ‘progressive’ GroenLinks does not campaign against orthodox Islam. Halsema reacted dismissively to the claim, citing her provocative 2006 criticism of fundamental Muslims, fundamental American Christians and the Roman Catholic Church as an “axis of religious evil” for their oppression of women. Invited to criticize Islam without making a parallel attack on Catholicism, Halsema did not shy away. “I notice it in my district: of course Islam is a problem. Anyway, specifically Islam in combination with illiteracy. It is: having few of your own opinions about the good life. (…) Being fearful of our society and thereby becoming very susceptible to what the Imam thinks, who is often very conservative.”
Mukhtar Mai’s compelling story is one of “Heather’s Picks.” She is a Muslim woman who has suffered terrible violence in the name of “tradition.” There are few like her who have the courage to confront their cultural misogyny. She has refused to embrace silence and is determined to overturn centuries-old attitudes. New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof has placed her in the company of history’s greatest personalities. Gloria Steinem has lauded her extraordinary character. She has inspired Muslim women who are fed up with the miserable status quo of their gender in many Muslim cultures. Unlike Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she has not rejected Islam, nor made defamatory declarations against Prophet Mohammed. Instead, she has deepened her Islamic faith, choosing to tread in the footsteps of the Prophet. Her memoir, In the Name of Honor, was recently released without much fanfare (…) Mai was determined to combat the enemy: illiteracy. As government funds dwindled, she tried to keep the school running from her own meagre savings. It was clear to her that a child’s education was far more valuable than personal wealth. As her story reached the world, donations poured in. The Canadian International Development Agency and Margaret Huber, Canada’s ambassador to Pakistan, were instrumental in providing moral and financial support. In her memoir, Mai gratefully acknowledges Canada as one of the few nations to come through in her time of need. Mai has shunned the limelight, and has no immediate plans for a book tour. Her last trip to the United States was fraught with interference from the Pakistani government. (…)