On Comedy Central's Nightly Show Tuesday night, former Obama "body man" Reggie Love cracked a joke that will make glad the heart of every rabidly anti-Obama, anti-Muslim conservative who has ever made Thanksgiving dinner uncomfortable with tales of Barack Hussein Obama: International Secret Muslim of Mystery. During panel discussion on Islamophobia, host Larry Wilmore teed up a gag that will give your racist uncle a NOBama diamond-cutter:
Larry Wilmore: Reggie, one of your friends is one of the most famous Muslims in the world, right, Barack Hussein Obama?
Reggie Love: You know how many times I carried that prayer rug?
Love may be obviously joking, but as Sarah Palin always says, "Many a truth, ingest." For many conservatives, there is nothing President Obama can ever say or do to make them believe he's not a secret Muslim, and while that view is supposed to be far outside the mainstream, it's making a comeback.
Recently, Wisconsin Governor and 2016 Republican presidential nopeful Scott Walker resurrected the once-hot parlor game of questioning President Obama's religion when he told reporters he didn't have any way of knowing that the prez is a Christian. Guess he missed that prayer breakfast, and the biblical references he makes always. While Walker insists he was just trying to prove a point about "gotcha questions," his insistence on leaving the question open just happens to also play to a segment of the Republican base that otherwise might not take a second look at a sane-ish candidate like Walker.
It isn't just conservatives, though, who have trouble taking the President at his word when it comes to his faith. There has long been a strain of thought, among liberals, that Obama is probably a closet atheist, although they mean it as a compliment. The theory is that young, politically ambitious Barack Obama joined a Christian church in Chicago as a pragmatic entree into the community, but that he's much too smart to take any of this Magical Sky-God stuff seriously. It's not a bad theory, and has the benefit of flattering its adherents.
I don't really have a dog in this fight, because while I'm not a believer, I'm also not an anti-religionist. While I'm deeply opposed to religion in government and religious beliefs that infringe on the rights of others, I also recognize the positive aspects of faith traditions. It wouldn't bother me either way to find out that President Obama is an atheist, a Christian, or a Muslim.
What I do find interesting is this broad refusal to take the President's word for it, not because it's somehow unimaginable to me that the President would conceal his true beliefs, but because the self-same people who refuse to take Obama's word for it that he's a Christian also have no trouble taking ISIS' word for it that they are Islamic. It's in their name, they say they're following Islam, it must be so. No matter how starkly their actions defy accepted Muslim practice and belief, all it takes is their word and some cherry-picked scriptures, and the same folks who can't believe Obama's a Christian are right on board with ISIS' self-styling. Muslims everywhere would be so much better off if they called themselves "Disney's ISIS," because that, we'd put a stop to.