'Obama the Muslim': The Smear that Just Won't Die

There is a very soft, very sensitive spot on the underbelly of the Obama campaign. They fear its exposure perhaps more than any other vulnerability in the organization. It's not some dark, buried scandal involving sex or money. It's not a skeleton in either Barack or Michelle Obama's family closet. In fact, it isn't "real" in any logical sense at all.

It is a rumor -- or, more prosaically, a smear. And touching on it brings out the teeth and claws of the Obama campaign beyond almost any other issue.

Barack Hussein Obama is not a Muslim. But the smear saying he is refuses to die and, if anything, is growing as the campaign becomes more intense. Aside from the obvious desire to beat down a false rumor, there are eminently practical political reasons why even mentioning the smear is avoided at all costs.

Recent polls show that between 45%-54% of Americans would never vote for a Muslim candidate. Already by some surveys, 15% of the electorate believes that despite vehement denials from the campaign, intensive investigations by mainstream media organizations, and all evidence to the contrary, Barack Obama is a Muslim.

This kind of irrational belief is fed by an army of online smear merchants and the more innocent but misinformed -- or simply duped -- group of largely conservative activists who see it as their duty to "expose" Obama as a Muslim to save the United States from. . . something. The cause is hazy. Either we should not vote for Obama because he is a Muslim "Manchurian Candidate" who, once ensconced in the Oval Office, will begin to turn the country into some kind of fundamentalist Muslim hell. Or, more earnestly, we must not elect Obama the Muslim because he will sell the US down the river in negotiations with Muslim countries.

There are several variations on those themes, and -- if you wish to be educated -- I suggest you peruse the comments of any article featuring Obama on this website. There you will come face to face with the lunatic fringe in all their ignominy. It is a sad commentary on American politics that so many give so much credence to such a tissue of lies and half truths.

But it is the sensitivity to the smear that has the entire Obama campaign on edge, as we witnessed on Monday at an Obama rally rally in Detroit. Two Muslim women wearing their traditional hijabs to cover their heads were denied the opportunity to sit behind the candidate and appear in the human tableau of diversity that all campaigns strive to present for the cameras.

The Detroit metropolitan area is home to the largest concentration of Muslim immigrants in the nation. But two volunteers working for the campaign declined to seat the Muslim women in two separate incidents at the venue. One volunteer specifically mentioned "the political climate" when she prevented the seating of one of the young women. The other volunteer made the excuse that no hats or head coverings were allowed behind the candidate, offering to seat the young woman if she would remove her hijab. (Photos from the rally clearly show several men with hats sitting behind the candidate.)

The young women were obviously hurt and disappointed: