The Times Uncovers Lame Campaign "Attacks" on Muslims

Tuesday's front page featured a story by Andrea Elliott on Muslims' ambivalent relationship to the Obama campaign, "Muslim Voters Detect a Snub From Obama." Elliott talked to America's first Muslim congressman, Rep. Keith Ellison, who told her that the Obama campaign asked him to cancel a speaking engagement at a Michigan mosque out of fear it would send the wrong message.


While it's novel to see a liberal Democrat's campaign being criticized for intolerance, the actual examples of "attacks" on Muslims forwarded by Elliott are exceedingly lame. (Elliott downplayed a Brooklyn imam's radicalism in a three-part series in 2006 that won her a Pulitzer Prize.)


As Senator Barack Obama courted voters in Iowa last December, Representative Keith Ellison, the country's first Muslim congressman, stepped forward eagerly to help.


Mr. Ellison believed that Mr. Obama's message of unity resonated deeply with American Muslims. He volunteered to speak on Mr. Obama's behalf at a mosque in Cedar Rapids, one of the nation's oldest Muslim enclaves. But before the rally could take place, aides to Mr. Obama asked Mr. Ellison to cancel the trip because it might stir controversy. Another aide appeared at Mr. Ellison's Washington office to explain.


"I will never forget the quote," Mr. Ellison said, leaning forward in his chair as he recalled the aide's words. "He said, 'We have a very tightly wrapped message.'"


When Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign, Muslim Americans from California to Virginia responded with enthusiasm, seeing him as a long-awaited champion of civil liberties, religious tolerance and diplomacy in foreign affairs. But more than a year later, many say, he has not returned their embrace.


While the senator has visited churches and synagogues, he has yet to appear at a single mosque. Muslim and Arab-American organizations have tried repeatedly to arrange meetings with Mr. Obama, but officials with those groups say their invitations - unlike those of their Jewish and Christian counterparts - have been ignored. Last week, two Muslim women wearing head scarves were barred by campaign volunteers from appearing behind Mr. Obama at a rally in Detroit.


In interviews, Muslim political and civic leaders said they understood that their support for Mr. Obama could be a problem for him at a time when some Americans are deeply suspicious of Muslims. Yet those leaders nonetheless expressed disappointment and even anger at the distance that Mr. Obama has kept from them.


But once Elliott gets past the incidents from the Obama campaign,the alleged attacks on the Muslim faithforwarded by Elliott are awfully thin:


For Ms. Ghori and other Muslims, Mr. Obama's hands-off approach is not surprising in a political climate they feel is marred by frequent attacks on their faith.


Among the incidents they cite are a statement by Mr. McCain, in a 2007 interview with Beliefnet.com, that he would prefer a Christian president to a Muslim one; a comment by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that Mr. Obama was not Muslim "as far as I know"; and a remark by Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, to The Associated Press in March that an Obama victory would be celebrated by terrorists, who would see him as a "savior."


Regarding McCain's comment - wouldn't most Muslims say they prefer a Muslim president? Hillary's remark was unfairly portrayed as lending doubt to Obama's religious status, and Rep. King didn't even mention Islam - unless the Times really wants to conflate Islam with terrorism?