Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why “Joe the plumber” and not “Kareem the soldier”?

It says a lot about how low a campaign for the Presidency has sunk when one campaign and its Know-Nothing supporters have turned the middle name of the Democratic candidate into a pejorative and engage into a whispering campaign about his religion suggesting he is a Muslim. What is particularly distressing about this whole exercise is the belief that it would have traction with the American people. Most Americans pride themselves in the diversity of their country and tolerance for widespread religious beliefs and practices. The underlying assumption of this campaign is that Americans are bigots and to convince Americans a fellow citizen is possibly a Muslim is to convince them he is something less than an American.

It’s a lie and it says a lot about those who peddle in this type of hatemongering in order to gain political advantage. It is a shame those who rattle on and on about “Joe the Plumber” cannot take a little time to honor “Kareem the soldier.” This from Nancy Youssef in McClatchy Newspapers:
"Joe the Plumber" was only one of two Americans injected into the presidential election this past week. The other was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, whom former Secretary of State Colin Powell invoked in his endorsement Sunday of Barack Obama.

Khan was a 20-year-old soldier from Manahawkin, N.J., who wanted to enlist in the Army from the time he was 10. He was an all-American boy who visited Disney World after he completed his training at Fort Benning, Ga., and made his comrades in Iraq watch "Saving Private Ryan" every week.

He was also a Muslim who joined the military, his father said, in part to show his countrymen that not all Muslims are terrorists.

"He was an American soldier first," said his father, Feroze Khan. "But he also looked at fighting in this war as fighting for his faith. He was fighting radicalism."

Khan was killed by an improvised explosive device in August 2007 along with four other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter while searching a house in Baqouba, Iraq. He's one of four Muslims who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where 512 troops from those wars now rest.

About 3,700 of the U.S. military's 1.4 million troops are Muslims, according to Defense Department estimates.

Khan, a child of immigrant parents from Trinidad, was 14 when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. Feroze Khan said he remembered his son watching in stunned silence: "I could tell that inside a lot of things were going through his head."

Three years later, Feroze honored his son's request and allowed him to enlist him in the Army. "I told him: 'You are going to the Army.' I never said there is a war going on in a Muslim country. I didn't want him to get any ideas that he was fighting (against) his religion."

Feroze kept his fears for his son's safety to himself.

His son was assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq in 2006 and fought on Baghdad's Haifa Street, a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

His tour was extended as part of the surge of additional U.S. forces to Iraq, and he called or messaged home often until he was deployed to restive Diyala province, where he was under fire too often to contact home regularly.

But he prayed every day, his father said.

One Sunday morning, his son sent an instant message: "Hey Dad. Are you there?" Feroze Khan was out, and he saw the message when he returned.

A few hours later, his ex-wife called. Soldiers had knocked on her door in Maryland. Their only child was dead.

A few minutes later, soldiers appeared at Khan's door. "I guess it helped that I knew beforehand," he said. "There are no words to describe it."

Kareem Khan was a month from finishing his tour when he was killed.

On Sunday, Powell said that Khan's sacrifice and service had swayed him to discuss the way that Muslims have been portrayed in the presidential campaign, and the contention that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Obama "is a Christian," Powell said. "He has always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, 'What if he is?' Is there something wrong with being Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That is not America." He added: "I am troubled that within the (Republican) Party we have these kinds of expressions" suggesting that Obama is a Muslim, and that if he is, he likely associates with terrorists.

Powell said that he felt strongly about the issue after he saw a photo of Khan's tombstone in the New Yorker magazine. In the black-and-white picture, Khan's mother is resting her head on her son's tombstone. On each side of the stone are flowers, and in between is a copy of the Quran. On the face of the tombstone is a crescent and star, indicating that the soldier buried there is a Muslim.

"He was an American," Powell said.


CRAMELY said...

See, the problem with this post, and the article in which you quote, is that there is an implication that the Republican party has an official platform of being anti-Muslim (and if you want to villify the Republicans, that's fine), and/or conservatives are anti-Muslim (I am an independent who leans right, and that's what has pissed me off). Yet, while you bash the Republicans and their supporters as "know nothings" (thereby displaying your own level of prejudice, vitriol and hate, which you somehow apparently believe is okay), you - and the article you quote - have listed to specificities to support your claim. I have not seen, read or heard one single Republican spokesperson go on the record for his/her party saying they were anti-Muslim or that a Muslim should not be allowed to be president of the United States.

Do the Republican lapdogs like Rush and Hannity use Obama's middle name? Sure they do. And to that I say, "So what?" True or false, Hussein is his middle name? How can it be wrong if that's a simple factual accuracy? Now is there innuendo that goes with that? Of course. Is this the first presedential election in American history wherein supporters of one candidate use innuendo about their advesary to foment negative feelings? Um, NO.

It's part of politics, pure and simple. It's not pretty, I don't particuarly like it, but I'd like to know why you're not equally outraged when the side you support actively spreads age discrimination, such as when John Kerry made the remark about McCain needing adult diapers. Where is your outrage when Congressman Murtha disparages and generalizes an entire segment of a state's population - ironically, a segment that has supported him for years - as racists and rednecks?

The specter of political correctness in this nation has done near-irreperable damage to intelligent, thoughtful discourse and debate. There is an unspoken rule, enforced by the media, that there is a hierarchy of victimhood, and your race, color, creed, religion and most importantly political leanings are directly related to the amount of questioning and rhetoric to which you are allowed to be exposed. In the claim of equality, we have become any but equal - this "two wrongs make a right" philosophy will do nothing for our nation but foster bitterness and unease in return volleys for years to come.

And who is it that is "rattling on and on about Joe the Plumber?" As far as I can see, it's the mainstream media, and they've kept his name out there in order to smear him as much as possible. That is what should be seen as chilling to you. This is a private citizen who asked a simple question of a man who most likely will become the next leader of the free world. He did not put words in Obama's mouth - the presidential hopeful spoke clearly, concisely and of his own volition. Yet, this private citizen is being villified for daring to question Obama at all. For wanting to become a more informed voter and giving Obama an opportunity to explain part of his leadership platform, this man has had all of his flaws exposed on a national stage. I ask you - What did he do to deserve that? Are private citizens no longer allowed to ask questions of their leaders? Must they pass a strict background check to be sure they have flawless character before daring to approach deities/leaders? This is genuinely a terrifying step towards a 1984-ish future - It feels as though it's straight out of the Joseph Goebbels playbook.

However, unlike you, I am not going to villify an entire political party and suggest they and their supporters are somehow behind this. What happens once Obama is president? Will dissenters - in addition to being roundly dismissed as racist for questioning him at all on anything - be imprisoned? This is the kind of behavior the left has accused of the right for years. How can you justify it?

Finally, regarding Cpl. Khan: may Allah bless him. Truly he was a man of character and great strength, and it is a great loss to not only his family but America that he is no longer with us. In our current state of malaise, wherein every minority group must be stuffed into one small group and told they must all think and act alike lest they somehow betray "their people" (God forbid minorities be treated as individuals with the capacity to reason on their own), Cpl. Khan certainly stands out as a true American: the iconic rugged individualist.

However, let me say this: Cpl. Khan should not be alone. His story should be the norm for American Muslims, not the exception. Again, political correctness be damned, the simple truth that everyone ashamededly shies away from is that a significant portion of Muslims on this planet are enemies of the United States. It is not up to the non-Muslims of this nation to defend this fact. Rather, the onus is on the non-radicalized practicers of the Islamic faith to step up the plate and decry the bastardization of their religion. After all, it is these men and woman who have the most to lose, as the extreme fringes of their brethren threaten to steal their religion away from them. If you want any Muslim stigma to be tramped down, it must start in-house. The fact that Cpl. Khan fought against this radicalism - and for his country and religion - should make him the standard-bearer for all American Muslims, and not a newsworthy exception. Then, and only then, will much of the Muslim bias alleged in this piece go by the wayside.

Joel Monka said...

Thank you for that comment, cramer, but it really was a waste of electrons. Tolerance- even common courtesy- is in very short supply in the UUA these days. Fairness is far too much to ask for.