It’s been a week of awkward political debate in the long, tiresome and brutal lead up to the US presidential election which has seen the focus shift to one thing in particular – religion.
It started with what at first seemed to be a not so overly interesting news story in which, it was reported, a 14 year old Texas boy was arrested for carrying a bomb which turned out to be a homemade clock. That was until the boy’s religion was brought into the debate and the President weighed in.
It has been suggested by many that the teachers at the school made a prejudice inference in assuming that Ahmed was harbouring bomb, and the President seemed to agree, inviting Ahmed and his “cool clock” to the white house. Annoyingly for the majority of Americans who just want to get on with debating and discussing issues of significance to day to day life, some, previously thought to be fringe extremists, brought Barack Obama’s religion back into the debate.
A youth supporter of extreme right Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, of a expectedly small organisation called Teens for Ted was one of the first to openly ridicule the president in a YouTube video:
“You don’t get invited to the White House for building a clock…when a Muslim kid builds a clock? Well, come on by. What is this world that you are living in?” the 13 year old said.
Ted Cruz, who led a large rally for ‘religious liberty’ less than a month ago following the legalisation of same sex marriage has remained largely silent on the issue of Obama’s religion, but that hasn’t stopped Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and the surging candidate Ben Carson to weigh in on Islam. Donald Trump spoke in Iowa this week, waving a bible in one hand and making a strong appeal to evangelicals despite not being able to name his favourite passage and then making one up entirely:
Ben Carson has recently stated he doesn’t believe any Muslim has the right to run for the white house and Donald Trump has one-upped him by suggesting the US has already elected a cunning, stealthy Muslim in Barack Obama.
The facts about Barack Obama tell for quite a different story than Republican extremists like to tell, a great deal of whom now believe Obama is a Muslim by faith. The only possible connection Obama could have to the Islamic faith is through his family in Kenya, a country in which 11% of residents are registered practicing Muslims (compared to 83% of the population who boast Christianity). Obama has confirmed in past interviews his Kenyan father was a “confirmed atheist” from a “non-practicing Methodist” background. He claims he found faith later on his life – (much like, it is worth noting, Ben Carson). In 2008 Obama told Christianity Today “I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life.”
“One Nation under God” does not specify any religion and “religious liberty” does not only mean Christian liberty. If America is to become a truly accepting nation, tolerant of all belief systems, then there needs to be cross-faith work on the acceptance of these communities in American society. Independent and US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, Jewish, and Keith Ellison (D-MN), Muslim, have already joined together in a show of solidarity for cross-faith connection and ideally all those who claim to stand for ‘religious liberty’ should be unreluctant to do the same.
Meanwhile moderate Republican presidential candidate and Roman Catholic Governor George Pataki, of New York, has come out as the first man in the race to hammer his colleagues over the Kim Davis saga, saying they wouldn’t have defended her right to exclude same sex couples from marrying had she been a Muslim:
Ohio moderate John Kasich has also stated Kim Davis should follow the law or quit her job.