Outspoken American conservatives including Michael Savage and Daniel Pipes are among the voices that apparently cannot get enough of the topic of Barack Obama’s religious identity. Among the claims being made, include the following: He’s a Muslim. He was sworn into office on the Koran. He doesn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. His pastor is an anti-Semite. He’s a tool of Louis Farrakhan. He’s anti-Israel. His advisers are anti-Israel. He’s friends with terrorists. The terrorists want him to win. He’s the Antichrist. Obama has repeatedly stated that he is a Christian, and has always been a Christian, and presently belongs to the United Church of Christ. The smear and fear about his religious affiliation is causing an uproar among some conservative Americans, unsure of how to trust a promising presidential candidate that the United States has never seen before – with an Arabic middle name, a father who was from Kenya, and has spent time living and studying abroad. Such new-ness is causing not only confusion, but rumors. Daniel Pipes argues that Obama should Obama have ever been a Muslim in his lifetime and is currently an apostate of Islam, that this may cause anger among some Muslims over his apostasy – a crime within Islam. Others like Michael Savage insist that Obama is hiding something over his religious background. Nevertheless, it is clear that many in America’s political arena are still unsure of how to approach, listen, and trust a candidate that brings, at least superficially, characteristics that have never been seen in such a promising and popular presidential candidate.
A convert to Islam is an election victory away from becoming just the second Muslim elected to congress. Andre Carson, a political newcomer, is the Democratic nominee in a March 11th special election to succeed his late grandmother, representing Indiana’s 7th district. If Carson wins the district, he would join Keith Ellison as the only Muslims ever elected to congress in the United States. Carson believes his religious identity does not hurt him politically, even while American Muslims struggle to gain acceptance and validity in political representation. ”I think it’s more of an advantage,” Carson said. ”It’s a platform to address ignorance. It’s a platform to really show that this campaign is about inclusion of all races and religions.
Social participation is one of the immigrants’ most important demands. Most of them do not want to be integrated, if that means completely giving up their culture, language and religion. Most concepts, however, ignore the immigrants’ opinion and expectations altogether. “Do not threaten immigrants with sanctions and deportation”, asked the T_rkische Gemeinde in Deutschland (TGD) a few months ago. “The goals of integration cannot be achieved in any case by threats, but by providing equal opportunities in education and on the job market, by equal treatment, participation, co-operation and by the inclusion of the immigrants in the development process.” To date, not even the linguistic, cultural and religious variety of immigrants has been taken sufficient notice of in German society and in its social discourse, according to the TGD. Islam as a component of millions of immigrants’ religious identity represents a distinctive challenge to integration into German society, shaped as it is by its Christian past and present. “The legitimate fear of many Muslims, namely that integration would lead to assimilation, must therefore be pre-empted in the context of the integration process, with confidence-building measures”, insists the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Conversely, two sets of developments have been observed so far. Some immigrants make do without their cultural-religious traditions, and thereby hope to secure faster social acceptance and integration. For another group, the fear of losing their traditions leads them to a renewed interest in religion.