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Muslims and Islamophobia ( 14 Jul 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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New Yorker depicts Obama as radical Muslim: sparks uproar

By Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

Tuesday 15 July 2008 (11 Rajab 1429)    


WASHINGTON: The cover of The New Yorker magazine depicts a turban-wearing Barack Obama fist-bumping his machine-gun-toting wife Michelle as they stand in the Oval Office. In the background, hangs a portrait of Osama Bin Laden above the fireplace with an American flag burning inside.


Get it?


The satirical cover harpooning the stereotypes and more insidious accusations against the Democratic presidential nominee hasn’t prompted any laughs from the Obama campaign, which a spokesman called “tasteless and offensive,” an opinion seconded by John McCain’s campaign.


The New Yorker’s July 21 cover, titled “The Politics of Fear,” is intended to be a parody, an attempt to show “scare tactics and misinformation.” However, it is being used to try to derail Obama’s campaign, says cover artist Barry Blitt.


The Obama campaign is not amused. “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton. “But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds concurred: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”


The Obama campaign has already had to fight an intensive e-mail spam campaign that claims the Democratic senator is secretly a Muslim, and his wife is a black radical.


A Newsweek poll released Friday showed that 12 percent of those polled believed Obama was sworn in as a US senator on the Holy Qur’an, and 26 percent believed that he was raised as a Muslim. Neither is true. The New Yorker Editor David Remnick “seemed shocked by the backlash,” according to the New York Daily News.


In a statement yesterday, the magazine said the cover “combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.” “The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall... All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that’s the spirit of this cover,” The New Yorker statement said. It also pointed to the two articles on Obama contained inside the magazine, calling them “very serious.” Predictably, The New Yorker cover has become candy for cable news.


Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post said Sunday on his CNN media show “Reliable Sources” that the cover is arguably “incendiary.” “It’s the most gross, sick and pathetic attempt at satire I’ve ever seen in my life,” writes columnist Maggie Van Ostrand. “Shame on The New Yorker for stooping so low to increase their circulation, which must be in the toilet, where it belongs,” she adds.


Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune defended it as “quite within the normal realms of journalism,” adding that “it’s just lampooning all the crazy ignorance out there.”


The cover has also generated a huge controversy on the Internet.


The Huffington Post, a left-leaning blog, said: “Anyone who’s tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, anyone who’s tried to portray Michelle as angry or a secret revolutionary out to get Whitey, anyone who has questioned their patriotism — well, here’s your image.” AlterNet columnist Don Hazen described the magazine’s decision as “arrogant and indulgent” and says the cover “turns the magazine into a potential Molotov cocktail, to be gleefully tossed by Fox News and the conservative blogs into the already combustible tinderbox of race and Muslim stereotypes just below the surface of America’s public discourse.”


Liberal radio talk-show host Laura Flanders told CNN’s “American Morning” yesterday, “I think the Obama campaign made a misstep here. They should have come out strongly endorsing this cover.”


She added, “This isn’t a jab at them, terrorist or any other kind. This is a jab at the media... It should be cause for our conversation to focus on the kind of fear mongering that the media and people on the right have engaged in.” Conservative talk-show host Joe Pagliarulo agreed. “I think this could be a very positive thing for the Obama campaign,” he said.


“I think they’ve got to embrace this and say ‘Look, there are rumours out there.’ People really do believe... that he’s a Muslim. They believe he was sworn in on the Qur’an. They believe that his wife is unpatriotic and so is he.”


Source: Arab News