Muslim rumors have dogged Barack Obama throughout this presidential campaign, but the political arrows flew fast and furious this week, leaving Maha ElGenaidi anxious that her community would be further wounded in the aftermath.
"The outcome of this game they're playing amongst themselves is possibly tragic for Muslims in America," said ElGenaidi, founder of the San Jose-based Islamic Networks Group.
American Muslims complain their faith is being used as a scare tactic, possibly inflaming prejudices already heightened by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the subsequent war and terrorist bombings. The recent ploys, leaders say, insinuate that simply being or associating with Muslims is sinister.
This week, a photo of Obama in a turban surfaced, flashing across television and computer screens coast to coast. At a Republican campaign rally in Cincinnati, a speaker repeatedly stressed his full name, "Barack Hussein Obama." And during Tuesday's debate, the Democratic front-runner was questioned about support from the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan.
The Muslim faith group also finds itself politically isolated. Though candidates have been courting voters in this tight race, none of the three top contenders has met with major Muslim groups. Neither, they say, have major interfaith groups and politicians rallied around them to loudly condemn the anti-Islamic strategies.
"It would be good if the president and leaders of both parties would say: 'Enough. We're better than this,' " said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "It's disconcerting to me they haven't."
Republicans have criticized some of the tactics, as has the National Council of Churches. Muslim leaders say while the politicians' admonishments are needed, they fall short of the full-throated defense other religions would receive. . .
Despite their concerns, Muslim leaders say they're careful not to overly criticize the candidates themselves.
"We know these candidates will do what they have to do to get voted in," said Safaa Ibrahim, director of the Santa Clara chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Because there's such a negative outlook on Muslims, middle America would not smile upon candidates that are sensitive to Muslim issues." (MORE)