Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Muslim Interns on Capitol Hill

Most people are familiar with what interns are and what they do. In most places of business they are the fresh-faced young beginners, just out of college and in some cases still enrolled, who are working for minimum wage or sometimes for free just for the opportunity to learn the ropes and perhaps someday climb the ladder to positions of greater responsibility in their present company or a future one.

On Capitol Hill, interns, who usually work in the offices of senators and congresspeople, do much the same sort of work--xeroxing, collating, running out for coffee, etc.--as do their counterparts in the private sector. These interns, rather than setting their sights on a business career, are there to learn the ropes of a life in the political arena. These positions, often political appointments, are highly sought after and considered a great privilege.

It does not surprise me that these interns often come from many different ethnic and social backgrounds, just as all Americans do.

I am completely surprised, though, at the outcry of some Americans upon finding out that some interns are of the Muslim faith. There has not been a similar reaction to those of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, B'Hai or Buddhist persuasions, for example, only, apparently, to Muslims.

Given that many Americans view Muslims as violent people bent on the complete destruction of the western world, perhaps that should not surprise me. But it does. It must be clear to most reasonable people that Muslim Americans do not, as a rule, support Al Qaeda or its passionate hatred of western civilization. They are, first and foremost, Americans. It's not like the Muslim interns in Washington are being brought over from the middle east, these are home-grown American citizens. They are young people pursuing careers in politics.

Then, I remember the heated accusations, during the last election, that President Obama is secretly a Muslim, bent on waging Holy Jihad against the United States at every opportunity. The great flap about his Christian minister notwithstanding, some benighted individuals still insist that he is a practicing Muslim. And then the outcry begins to make some sense -- sort of. The reasoning, apparently, is that somehow the president is personally filling the Capitol with violent young people who will bring down the hallowed walls of Congress and crash airplanes into our national parks and other revered landmarks. The assumption is, I suppose, that President Obama hates everything American and has enough power to force Congresspeople and Senators to hire interns with ties to Al Qaeda.

This because his father was born in Kenya. This sort of fear has a name--xenophobia. It means an extreme fear and hatred of anything foreign or outside one's own culture. I have posted a link to the free dictionary definition of the word. The fact that xenophobia pertains to irrational fears should be obvious.

If John McCain had won the election, and there were some interns on Capitol Hill of the Muslim faith, then I've no doubt no one would have raised an eyebrow.

But, apparently, because the current President of the United States has been accused of being a Muslim, we must all hate and fear Muslims in any position of responsibility anywhere in this great country of ours.

Somebody needs to get a grip.