Thirty-one percent of Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center, believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. And more Republicans, 74 percent, than Democrats, 39 percent, oppose the construction of a mosque near ground zero. Thus, goes the argument, opposition to the proposed mosque stems from similar "right-wing" ignorance and Islamophobia.
Why do so many people think Obama is a Muslim? Are they lunatics?
Perhaps people base their assumption about Obama's religion on what they believe Islam says about the matter. In a New York Times op-ed, Edward Luttwak, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that Obama "chose to become a Christian." But, Luttwak wrote: "As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother's Christian background is irrelevant."
Maybe some follow the lead of Hillary Clinton. When asked on "60 Minutes" whether she believes Obama is a Muslim, then-presidential candidate Clinton said, "Of course not. ... There is no basis for that." She said she goes on "the basis of what he says." But she added, "There is nothing to base that on as far as I know" (emphasis added). She wasn't called anti-Muslim.
Perhaps people believe Obama -- who no longer belongs to a church -- is a Muslim because of his 20-year association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright's church publication honored the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan as a man who "truly epitomized greatness."
Or maybe the more people oppose Obama's policies the less they think of him as a person. Discontent breeds negative feelings. After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, a majority of Americans believed that Germany was behind it. A large plurality of Americans, despite the lack of evidence, believed President Nixon planned the Watergate break-in that brought down his presidency.
Liberals should be sympathetic. They are quite adept at willfully refusing to face facts, if necessary, to support wrongheaded views. Here are some examples:
"The rich don't pay taxes." False. For the 2007 tax year (the latest income tax data year released by the IRS), the top 1 percent of income earners, those making over $410,000 a year, paid 40 percent of all federal income taxes. The top 5 percent, those making about $160,000 a year or more, paid 60 percent of all federal income taxes. Yet according to a 2008 IBD/TIPP poll, only 12 percent of Americans knew what the rich, in fact, paid in taxes. And liberals are likelier to get it wrong.
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