Muslim? Even if he were, so what?
by rpcvbg, Wed May 07, 2008 at 01:34:30 PM EDT
This is my response to someone on an Obama Email list who heard of folks stating they won't vote for Barack Obama because he's muslim. Truth is - he's not, he's Christian, but someone asked why does it matter? We have freedom of religion in this country. Why does it matter? What's written below is my response to that.
I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, this administration has either fed - or done nothing to stop - the perception that "muslim" is synonymous with "terrorist", i.e. a bad person. That's very unfortunate because every muslim I've met has been quite open, friendly and hospitable. I used to live in Bulgaria and while not a muslim country, it was under the Ottoman yoke for 500 years (many are still bitter about that) and therefore, it has a large muslim population - especially in the southern edge (where I lived) and close to Turkey. The people lived together quite happily. In fact, about 45 minutes from where I was in Smolyan, is the largest mosque in the Balkans (or at least the 2nd largest?) in the town of Madan. It's beautiful, all white - absolutely gorgeous. The people are wonderful there. Having traveled as well to Turkey and Egypt (the latter during Ramadan a few years back), I had the good fortune of meeting a lot of muslims - many of whom were quite happy to discuss their religion because admittedly, I didn't know what Ramadan really celebrated, or meant, at the time. They were happy to explain it to me and I was quite grateful for that. Now my trip to Egypt was in 2000-2001 (Ramadan, Christmas, New Year's, Coptic Christmas - GREAT trip!) , before 9/11, but two of my trips to Istanbul were after. The people were very kind and supportive of us. If only the American population at large could see that side of them, they'd think twice before saying they don't want to vote for a muslim - especially when that person isn't even a muslim at all. To me - that's like my saying I don't want to vote for someone because they're Presbyterian or Baptist when they're actually Jewish. Seems silly, but having been fortunate to travel as much as I have, I've been exposed to a lot of different people and don't share that logic.
I'm lucky though. I've been exposed to muslims in a friendly setting - both before and after 9/11. I'm actually kind of glad that I wasn't in the country (U.S.) when that happened because I missed out on the fear and paranoia. I can't tell you how many people were incredulous at the fact that I flew home to the States the Christmas afterwards. You FLEW? WHY? (Kind of hard to get from Bulgaria to Indiana without the benefit of an airplane...) :-) While I think we're getting over the fear of walking out our front doors (my perception of my fellow Americans post-9/11), we as a whole are still battling the negative stereotypes of those of the muslim faith. It's sad, but time will help - as will education.
I thought this would be of interest.
RPCV Bulgaria - 2000-2002
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