Obama’s Real Mideast Problem


It’s His Polices, Not His Heritege

By Amir Taheri *

IS pronouncing a man’s mid dle name tantamount to in sulting him?

In Sen. Barack Obama‘s case, the answer appears to be yes.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has already apologized because her allies used the unmentionable middle name – ostensibly without her consent. Last week, it was Sen. John McCain‘s turn to apologize, because the host of a meeting he attended was rash enough to pronounce the seven-letter word.

The word in question is “Hussein,” Obama’s middle name and the name of his Kenyan Muslim father. Obama has accepted the apologies as if using his father’s name was, indeed, an insult. Why?

Well, “Hussein” supposedly has a negative resonance with many Americans, reminding them of Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi dictator. The fact that the name Hussein means “most benign” or “very beautiful” in Arabic isn’t enough to persuade Obama and his pr gurus to treat it more kindly. (Hussein is also one of the most popular names for Muslims, especially Shiites.)

Obama’s problems shouldn’t end there. “Barack” is also Arabic, from “barakah,” meaning “blessing.” “Obama,” meanwhile, is a word in Swahili – a language based on Arabic that serves as the lingua franca of East Africa; it refers to members of his father’s tribe who converted to Islam.

In other words, “Barack Hussein Obama” is a perfectly common identifier for someone with an ethnic East African Muslim background.

Nevertheless, Obama insists that, while his father and paternal grandfather were both Muslims, he himself was never one in any way.

In Islam, of course, anyone born of a Muslim father is automatically regarded as Muslim. But Obama is hardly obliged to abide by what Muslims may or may not think of his religious status. As a citizen of a free and democratic state, he can cross from one faith to anther or have no faith at all without losing any of his rights, including the right to stand for the highest office.

What’s troubling about Obama’s approach to the mini-storm stirred by his political enemies over his name is what may look like an attempt at obfuscation. He has behaved as if he did have a family secret, and as if the name Hussein was something to be ashamed of – or, worse still, as if a Muslim background is somehow a handicap for an American politician in ways that Christian, Jewish, Mormon or any other faith is not.

That, of course, is hurtful to Muslims – a majority of whom reject the anti-American diatribes of the radical and violent minority.


* Amir Taheri, a Iranian-born journalist and author based in Europe



1. Article puclished originaly in the New York Post


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