Obama's religion - Why does America care ?

The Obama campaign has run a memorable election campaign so far. It is monumental for many reasons. I personally have witnessed just two elections in my stay here so far, but this election is way different that the previous one, the absence of Dubya notwithstanding.

Firstly, for the first time in recent history, American politics and the election process itself has received unprecedented publicity. After all, when you hear an average man in an Indian village enquire about Obama on the phone, you know you have struck gold. If you don't believe me, replay the Berlin address. A crowd of 65,000 non-Americans , and usually tight-lipped Germans at that, cheering loudly a man who is not the president of the United States. He is not a president incumbent, hell , he is not even the formal nominee - still presumptive nominee of one of the parties of the country.

Secondly, this man and his campaign has generated tremendous interest and following among young voters. Facebook's 24 year old CEO as one of his chief strategists, Obama has used technology to effectively redefine the way campaigns and fundraisers are run. And yes, he does use our CRM product to run these campaigns and that makes me very proud, but the point to carefully observe here is that the campaign does not just send out random emails at all times of the day. Very carefully worded , crisp messages sent at appropriate times. Admirably, the Obama campaign has declared that it will announce his VP choice to his supporters first, and voters can sign up or send a text message to be put on a list. Millions of emails and phone numbers gathered at one go - that is just very smart campaign tactics. Supporters can also sign up to see local members and start groups in their neighborhood.

Thirdly, of course, is the extraordinary distance this man has come so far, with an unusual sounding name and relatively no D.C. experience. This fact alone is a testament to what smart politics can do in an election. But since he became the presumptive nominee, the Obama clan has run a clean race so far. In fact, far too clean in my opinion. Clearly , Mr.Grandpa and his supporters could stoop so low as to compare him with Britney and Paris after his landmark trip abroad. This man Obama, carried himself with such poise they did not think was possible from this newbie. On the one hand, he is the presumptive nominee of the democratic party, challenging the current president's international policies but on the other hand he represents America to the world. That is a very fine line to walk. And he did walk that like with confidence, winning millions of supporters abroad with his message of hope and cooperation.

But here is where I , as a relative outsider to this country get confused. Michelle fist- bumped Barack , so what? Obama's middle name maybe Hussain , so what ? In a country as liberal as America, a country that goes to war to end religious segregation, why is the media unforgiving? A nationally acclaimed magazine, the New Yorker , no less portrays him in a white turban , with his - wait I cannot continue to describe this obscenity.It is crass, ridiculous and paints a very racist, culturally intolerant picture of the US to the world, satirical though it was intended.

That leads me to the actual intent of the New Yorker article, and this post. For one, Obama is different (e.g. looks, culture) from any other politician this country has seen before, which in itself shocks me. I come from a country that has had a president from the religious minority and a woman prime minister. These people were some of the best rulers the country ever witnessed. Oh, and it almost slipped my mind, we now have a woman president, too , but that's a rant I ll save for later.

Anyway, countries that have traditionally been considered conservative by the West - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia,Israel,Bangladesh,Turkey have all had minority/women heads of state. Granted, there has been an increasing awareness about religious terrorism here in the US since 9/11. An awareness is healthy, even necessary to open America's eyes to what has been going on for centuries in the rest of the world. But by boxing all people that belong to a particular religion as somehow alien and potentially dangerous, isn't America going down the same path as it's offenders ?

What if Obama is indeed a Muslim ? Does that make him any less American ? Does that make him any less patriotic ? There have been no records so far pointing to any of the above.Frankly the hypocrisy is shocking. On the one hand, Americans talk about celebrating diversity and take great pride in their political correctness. Yet, on the other hand,you see a three page statement issued by the Obama campaign with detailed references to his genealogy and religious practices. Has there ever been a non-white, or non-male, or a non-Christian president in the world's most liberal country?

Is the U.S. ready for a different president this time around? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, every country comes with its own set of hypocrisies, prejudices and emotions. Social diversity, economic, education and scientific advancement notwithstanding. Because ultimately , a country is its people, and people, are just that - human.

PS : An alternate title for this post reads " I can write an op-ed too :)"

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