GUEST COLUMN: What if Obama is? For Immediate Release, Feb. 16, 2008

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And What if Obama is?
By Mohamed Mughal —
It seems that e-mail has become a negative campaigning tool in the 2008 Democratic primaries.  Voters from Iowa on have received messages suggesting Barack Obama is a Muslim.  And poor Senator Obama – he’s forced into a corner, having to publicly profess his reverence for Jesus Christ before hoards of supporters.

But in the flurry of denunciations and retorts, the most important question lays dormant, unaddressed – What if he is (“is” in italics) a Muslim?

An August 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press provides one answer.  In the poll, 49 percent of respondents said that there would be no difference in their willingness to support a candidate if the candidate was a Muslim.  But here’s the rub – 45 percent said it would make them less likely to support that candidate.

And so Senator Obama, a highly intelligent man with a stellar campaign apparatus, has responded as appropriate.  His aides dutifully dispute suggestions that Obama’s a Muslim; Obama’s campaign offices have been known to keep copies of letters, signed by Christian clergy, attesting to his Christian faith.  I’m convinced.  He’s Christian.

But for me, a Muslim who’s also a proud and patriotic American, the explanatory powers of the cited poll and the strength of Senator Obama’s adroit response fade to hollow echoes.  I sit silent, bothered and disappointed.  My question cries out:  for God’s sake, what if he was (“was” in italics) a Muslim?  Would that really disqualify him for consideration for our nation’s highest public office?  Would it diminish his sterling qualifications, sully the integrity of his being, irrevocably tarnish the shine on his hard-won trophies?

Would it?

Twenty-first century American presidential politics has demonstrated a number of clear principles so far.  These are:  drunk driving is OK; taking five student deferments to avoid the draft is OK; adultery is OK; but a Muslim (“Muslim” in italics) – heavens, no!

Come on, people.

Come on.

(Dr. Mohamed Mughal is author of Resolution 786, a novel that focuses on religion and the Iraq War.  He may be contacted at Cooywrite Arab American Writers Group, 

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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