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Oct 10 / Jonathan

Obama’s an Arab?

John McCain: “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man.”

Good to know. Sheesh.

Update: Here’s Juan Cole.

That confused woman probably did not mean “Arab” but “Muslim.” (She later said she was afraid America would become a Muslim country.)

But Arab is a linguistic identity whereas Muslim is a religious one. Not all Arabs are Muslims. The Copts in Egypt (6% of the population) speak Arabic but are Christians. Likewise the Maronites in Lebanon and many Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq. About 7,000 Jews living in Morocco speak Arabic at home.

If not all Arabs are Muslims, only a minority of Muslims is Arab. Iranians (70 million strong) are not Arabs. Turks are not Arabs. Pakistanis are not Arabs. Malaysians and Indonesians are not Arabs. Nigerians and Senegalese are not Arabs. But all these national or ethnic groups are predominantly Muslim.

Worse than the lady’s confusion between Arab and Muslim were her further obvious confusion between Muslim and dangerous.

Mr. McCain, Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans are decent, family-oriented citizens. The only thing wrong with calling Obama by either of these modifiers is that it would be incorrect. He is not an Arab ethnically, but rather northern European and Luo (Nilotic). He is not a Muslim but a Christian.

McCain’s insinuation that “Arabs” (whether he and his friend actually meant “Muslims” or not) are not decent and not family-oriented and not citizens is obscene.

Ralph Nader, one of McCain’s rivals for the presidency, is an Arab-American, and McCain owes Mr. Nader and all Arab-Americans, indeed, all Americans, a huge apology.

One Comment

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  1. Jo Chamberlain / Oct 11 2008

    I was shocked by McCain’s response to this comment. He is obviously oblivious to his prejudice. If he were not he would have responded that Obama’s father was Kenyon and his mother a US citizen… and not referred to Obama’s behaviour toward his family. I’ve seen other racial slights toward Obama by McCain but this one just slapped me in the face…

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