All religions, not just Islam, potentially threaten loyalty to the state. For example, a Christian may not have fought for his nation state in World War II against other Christians. One is not allowed to be a Christian before one is a loyal citizen of a nation state. We may be allowed multiple identities, but loyalty to the national one is primary.
Any candidate for state office must prove that his primary allegiance is to the state. The state persecutes any and all religions, loyalty to any of which threatens allegiance to the state. Obama cannot say that the Muslim or the Catholic faith would never compete with the state for the loyalty of an individual, for religious faith may just put believers in such a bind (remember John Walker Lindh). He cannot simply defend Islam, Catholicism or any faith from critique.
Any candiate must be willing to persecute those religions that threaten to compromise loyalty to the nation state.
As Andrew Collier puts it: "The assumption of Spinoza and Rousseau is that if everyone first gives their allegiance to the state, all the religions within the state can tolerate one another. But this misses the point since no religious believer can give his or her first allegiance to the state. So instead of a prescription for universal tolerance, it is a prescription for the persecution of all religions. On this rock the French revolution crashed; a revolution that had the consensus of the Third Estate behind it became a revolution resisted by the Catholic half of the people, and consequently a revolution that had to live by terror."
Of course Obama thinks that forms of Islam that have been domesticated like his form of Christianity are deserving of honor and respect. He seems to say this at least enough for Naomi Klein to have heard it.
But he is not being accused of practicing such a form of Islam but a form of Islam that compromises his loyalty to the state. To be a candidate in bourgeois liberal society, he has no choice but to distance himself from Islam, understood in this way.
So what he is distancing himself from is not Islam but any understanding of religious faith which could compromise loyalty to the state. In other words, he is not trying to prove himself a Christian but a loyalist of the nation state.
But Obama does have a loyalty at odds to the state--to the religion of international human rights. He is willing to criticize US soldiers in Afghanistan in terms of their violation of them, to insist that the US subordinate itself to the International Criminal Court and to demand respect for the Geneva Convention.
Now all this can be justified in terms of the national interest, but Obama evinces a primary allegiance to humanity as such in terms of his commitment to universal human rights that no government can violate. I think he is the only candidate who shows such sympathies.
His universal humanism may, however, be seen as anti-patriotic. McCain, who has shown a commendable reluctance to Islam-bait him, may fear-monger about Obama's universal humanism. This may ultimately be seen as more threatening than his putative faith in Islam.
So it's important for us to remember that being called a universal humanist is not a smear either.
Walnut Creek, CA
Mar 2 2008 - 3:01am