"So what, if he’s Muslim?"

Posted by Melvin Bray on March 1st, 2008 filed in Useful Perhaps

I’ve been wanting to write about this for about two weeks, since my wife received the e-mail about Obama being a Muslim. Omar’s thesis question is the exact same one I voiced, but is strengthened by the power of his personal narrative. I found this article on the God’s Politics blog (a collaboration between Beliefnet & Sojourners), Omar also published it on his blog, which is where the hyperlink to finish the article sends you.

The Politics of Names
by Rev. Omar Hamid Al-Rikabi

My parents had an agreement: If my father could name his children, then my mother could raise us in the church. So I was given a full Muslim name, but I was baptized as a Christian. Growing up I never really liked my name very much – Omar. For a little kid in Texas, a foreign sounding, deeply ethnic name was a nuisance. It stood out too much. It made a scene. In classrooms full of Mikes and Peters and Amys and Stephanies, Omar felt like the person who wore jeans to a wedding while everyone else was in suits. Very out of place. I always wanted to be a David.

Over the years, in classrooms and sanctuaries, as different Middle Eastern dictators and terrorist groups made headlines, my name was the butt of many jokes, varied translations, and stupid questions (imagine the fun in junior high when “Moammar Gadhafi” sounded too much like “Omar Rikabi”).

Not too long ago, I was given the opportunity to preach in a Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Before the service started I was introduced to the senior pastor. “Hello,” I told him, “my name is Omar and I’ll be doing the preaching tonight.” As he shook my hand, he pulled me close and asked loudly with his southern drawl, “Omar? You’re not a terrorist are you?”

I have to admit that this was not the first time my Muslim name was taken as a suggestion that I was “one of them.” By “them” I mean “the enemy.” The politics and preaching of fear saturates us. Representative Keith Ellison, the Muslim congressman from Minnesota, had to endure talk show host Glenn Beck’s ridiculous questions about his loyalty to “the enemy.” And now Senator Barack Obama is under attack because his middle name is Hussein.

But here is my question: What if Obama were a Muslim? So what?
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One Response to “"So what, if he’s Muslim?"”

  1. Shimmy Says:

    Thanks for reminding us about Glenn Beck’s attack on Keith Ellison.

    Funny how Glenn Beck never talks anymore about those pit bulls he tortured and killed.

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