Note from the chief editor

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 27 August 2008

It seems that there’s no escape from the fanatic obsession with the USA’s primary election. Even we, young free-thinkers have been infected by press snippets about the US party’s pre-election of presidential candidates. My newspapers, for one, treat US media coverage of communication strategies devised by campaign teams and spin doctors, and still keep up the pretension to inform me. Right. At least, it won’t get me to believe that it makes much of a difference whether we’ve got an ex-first lady or an upwardly mobile not-so-young black running as the Democratic candidate for the command of a superpower that hits out frantically at every perceived threat to its hegemony.

But ah!, the importance of having the first black or woman president of the United States. Some 40 years after Indira Gandhi became president of India, it would indeed be heartening to see this happening in the US. I’ll admit that. But I couldn’t help being struck by the newest height that was reached in this enormous symbolical battle.

A conservative-leaning news website, called the Grudge report, published a picture of candidate Barack Obama on a visit to Kenya where he’s wearing a traditional Somali dress which includes a headdress that looks like a turban (read more). The picture was allegedly brought to the attention of the website’s editor by the Clinton campaign team, but they deny. That he’s looking rather silly in the camera lenses wasn’t even remarked. But this turban – according to those who search wisdom in comic books, at least – might suggest that Obama is a Muslim, and thus his campaign leader accused the opposite camp of ‘smear’ and ‘divisive politics’!

Of course, we could have a laugh at a presidential candidate looking as if he’s caught in some tourist trap (a sign of true humanity), but the idea that the faintest hints at being a Muslim are perceived as strategical ways to sideline a person is alarming. Shortly before, John McCain, Conservative’s probable candidate, “showed his decency” in denouncing remarks on Obama’s middle name Hussein by one of his campaigners. The guy’s called Hussein – switch to Code Red!

Of course we aren’t in favour of overtly religious politicians – Obama is a practising Christian – but that’s not even what this whole row is about. If the attacks float on undisguised Islamophobia, the defence isn’t any better. On the contrary, it confirms the validity of prejudices against turbans and Husseins. The attempts to glue every single voter, whichever prejudices he may bear, results in this sterile and dull debate. Rather than refuting this racist rhetoric, the campaigners rather harmonise with mediocre thoughts.

When Poincaré expressed his famous maxim, “Thought must never be subordinated to any dogma, political party, passion, interest, preconceived idea, to anything indeed, except the facts themselves, because, for science, to be subordinated means to die.”, he couldn’t foresee opinion polls.

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