Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
The rightwing's obsession about President Obama's religion is turning into a bad joke.
Late last month, conservative bloggers let loose on the web that Obama had declared November National Muslim Appreciation Month.
"The Muslim community deserves our full acceptance and respect," Obama said at a press conference, according to the Minuteman News website. "We have killed millions of Muslims overseas since the September 11th attacks. They are not all bad. In fact, most of them are good. So from now on, November will be a month to celebrate the Muslim community, the Sunnah and the Quran."
The website went on to quote a Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson commending Obama for the move, and added, for good measure, that Obama was making it easier for Muslims to get U.S. citizenship.
There was only one problem: The source was a satirical outlet called the National Report. Unrepentant after this was revealed, a Tea Party blogger said, "My comments still stand if O should ever do such a thing."
The National Report struck again last weekend (maybe it should start charging royalties), and this time the sucker was Fox News. Anna Kooiman, co-host of a Saturday morning program on the network, uttered this gem while talking about the shutdown: "Some things are continuing to be funded, and President Obama has offered to pay out of his own pocket for the Museum of Muslim Culture -- out of his own pocket." When notified of her error, she issued a half-hearted apology via Twitter.
Even the spoofs seem to be reinforcing the falsehoods about Obama.
When it comes to Obama and his alleged Muslimness, many conservatives leave the realm of reality. In surveys over the last few years, a significant proportion of Republicans (almost half in an August 2010 Time magazine poll) have said that Obama is Muslim.
Where does this fixation come from? It is due to the fact that a lot of Tea Partiers are out to prove Obama's is not a normal American, and, in the eyes of these folks, pretty much nothing can be more abnormal than being a Muslim.
"The entire government has been taken hostage by leaders elected by this crazed minority, who see in the face of Barack Obama everything they've been taught to fear for fifty years," Joan Walsh writes on Salon. "Start with miscegenation: He's not just black, he's the product of a black father and a white mother. ... With his Ivy League degrees, they are sure he must be the elitist beneficiary of affirmative action. Steeped in Chicago politics, he's the representative of corrupt urban machines controlled by Democrats.
Obama supposedly not being Christian just adds to his alleged menace in the crazed eyes of the far right. It's no coincidence that the latest to state out loud that Obama is a Muslim is the father of Senator Ted Cruz, one of the main leaders of the Tea Party movement.
Pointing out the falsehood just doesn't seem to matter to this crowd.
Photo: Flikr user EyesOnFire89, Creative Commons licensed.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of "Islam" Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today (Praeger).