by Phillip Luke Sinitiere
A few weeks ago I posted about Edward Curtis's new encyclopedia on Muslim-American history and Thomas Kidd's latest offering on the history of evangelicals and Islam in America. American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism is now available, as is Kidd's HNN piece on the attempt by some evangelicals to paint Barack Obama as a Muslim. Kidd brings some historical clarity to these claims, and calls for some much needed cosmopolitan thinking on the matter.
Here's the first part of Kidd's informative and brief historical summary:
During this year’s presidential campaign, widely-circulated e-mails claimed that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim. “Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim,” one version of the e-mail asserted. “Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.” Setting aside the factual problems with this e-mail (the swearing-in claim confused Obama, a long-time practicing Christian, with Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress), how has the prospect of a secret Muslim as President taken such a prominent place among the cyber-myths of this election?
One might easily point to the fear of Muslim extremists generated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as a contributing factor to this rumor about Obama. The prominent role of evangelical Christians in American politics might be another cause. Anxiety about Islam has particular resonance among conservative Protestants: polls have consistently demonstrated that contemporary evangelicals have a substantially more negative view of Islam than other Americans. But American fears about Muslims precede 9/11 by hundreds of years, with origins as early as the founding of the first English colonies in America. History also shows conflicted American attitudes toward Islam, even among conservative Christians, whose views of Islam have ranged from studied respect to apocalyptic revulsion.
Read the rest of the article here and find a copy of the book here.