Thursday, June 04, 2009
One of the Largest Muslim Countries?
Power Line cites one of President Obama's recent malapropisms: "And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world".
At first I didn't think it was that serious a misstatement, unless you see it as part of a bigger pattern. (I didn't think it was a big deal when he implied that America had 57 states either.)
On the other hand, a slip of the tongue by a candidate on the campaign trail, while speaking to Americans, is quite different than an unintended show of international support, by the President, on the world stage. Does it help us, or hurt us, when the President of the United States claims that America is a Muslim country? I have my own opinion on that... and no doubt the President does too, if he thought about it in advance.
Given that our sworn enemies have declared their goal of making the whole world Islamic -- and given that the United States is not a Muslim country now, nor has it ever been one -- it makes me decidedly uncomfortable when the President says that it is to an Islamic audience. (In particular, he has to twist the definition of "Muslim country" all out of shape to do it.) Perhaps this is not "giving comfort to the enemy", but it feels uncomfortably close.
So, did the President think in advance about the consequences of saying what he did? Or was he thinking on his feet, and just saying something he thought might sound good? I'm not very happy about it either way.
By the way, as Don Surber points out, the New York Times reported the statement as straight news. No fact checking was necessary, apparently, although the statement is obviously wrong to anyone who knows anything about the Muslim world.
How wrong is it? Wikipedia lists the United States in 52nd place -- at least today they do. (That's by number of Muslims; if you go by percentages, the United States is a lot further down than that.) The United States is therefore outranked by such "Muslim countries" as Russia (#17), China (#19), France (#40), and Germany (#50) -- all of which, by the way, also have higher percentages of Muslims than America does.
Michael Ramirez has the right idea. If anything, perhaps he understates the case:
To be fair, a number of incidents are being conflated here. President Obama said it when speaking to France's Canal Plus, not to Saudi Arabian King Abdullah. And he did say that "...we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation", but that was in Turkey a month ago.
Interesting, though, isn't it, that he can say, in part, that America does not consider itself a Muslim nation, and then a month later say that America can be considered, not just a Muslim country, but one of the largest? If that's not being all things to all people, I don't know what is.
UPDATE: Is the statement part of a bigger pattern? Your guess is as good as mine. But Jake Tapper, of ABC News, notes that President Obama is increasingly comfortable referring to his own Muslim roots -- a topic that was utterly verboten less than a year ago, during the campaign.
Let's not address, here and now, the conspiracy theories about President Obama being a "stealth Muslim" and a Manchurian candidate, nor the theories about his not being American-born. (It is noteworthy, in my opinion, that the President could dispell these and other rumors easily if he wanted; he has not done so. But that's not evidence.)
Instead, let's just note that we have here a politician who silences a topic on the campaign trail, implying strongly that it's racism even to bring it up... and then brings it up himself, more and more, once he's in the White House. Maybe that looks like "hope and change" to you; to me, it looks very much like Politics As Usual.
Note also Toby Harnden's excellent piece in the London Times. He points out that it's actually not clearly known how many Muslims there are in the United States. So perhaps America is in 24th place, or 34th, or 48th. He also notes the irony that Israel may have more Muslims than America does.