I remember the day my Indian Muslim family became Latino. It was 2006 and Ted Strickland was running as the Democratic nominee for governor of Ohio. My father declared our new identity with a “Latinos Unidos por Strickland” bumper sticker on the back of our minivan. “We want him to win, right?” he reasoned.
My father’s attempt to change our family’s ethnic and religious identities into something he believed would be more acceptable to our neighbors reflects the sad reality of the role of Muslims in public life in the United States.
It is no secret that many Americans are wary of Muslims. A 2007 report published by the Pew Forum indicated that just 43 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Muslims. This fact was not lost on the Republicans who launched a whisper campaign the following year to frame Obama as the Muslim Manchurian Candidate.
Last week’s “Tea Party” demonstration in D.C. illustrates that using the term “Muslim” as a slur is still acceptable in many parts of the country as protesters exclaimed they were afraid “Muslims are moving in and taking over” – an echo of their leader Mark Williams‘ comments about candidate Obama being an “Indonesian Muslim” during the presidential campaign.
That Muslims aren’t well liked hasn’t been lost on Muslim Americans themselves. But rather than confront the stereotypes and misunderstandings that led to the negative views, most Muslim Americans seem to have gone into hiding and decided not to participate in American political life. Continue reading