The Corner

The Largest Muslim Nation

Andy, Jonah, aside from the factual issue here about Muslim population count, could I suggest that there is a greater problem reflected in Obama’s statement? Obama has embraced cultural relativism, and argued that the United States cannot and should not impose its values on other countries. Whether we should or not is a debate for another time. But even if he chooses not to preach American values, rather than define the United States on religious terms, why not at least stand up for the values which made the United States great when describing the United States? The United States is not “a Muslim country.” Nor should it be, in my opinion, a “Christian country,” except in as much as Western liberalism and the core values of Christianity or Judaism or any other religion overlap with Western liberalism. 

Rather, the United States is a country built on the very concepts about which Obama now seems embarrassed: freedom, liberty, respect for property, separation of church and state, constitutionalism, and rule-of-law. Rather than pander to Egyptians as if Egypt is just another constituency on a whistle-stop tour, perhaps Obama should emphasize our freedoms as the core of the American brand name.

It reminds me of an example — pointed out several years ago, I believe by Rob Satloff — of a State Department pamphlet about Muslims in America. About 90 percent of the women in its pictures were veiled. The problem is, that perhaps only 10 percent of American Muslims cover themselves. And yet, rather than send the message that Muslims in America could be free to dress however they wanted without fear of getting beaten, stabbed, or have acid thrown in their faces, the State Department chose to pander and implied acceptance of a far more conservative definition of proper Islam.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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