Will President Obama wear a kippah? Of course. Will he wear ….?
Posted by rabbibrian on October 20, 2010
As a rabbi, who loves to wear a kippah as an acknowledgment of our calling as humans to serve God by living an ethical life, I was struck by the post by Ali Abunimah on Electronic Intifadah about the Administration’s discussions about whether the President should be seen in anything that resembles Muslim dress.
Here is Abunimah:
US President Barack Obama has ruled out a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, sacred to Sikhs, because Obama does not want to wear the head-covering that is required as a sign of respect in case it makes him look like a Muslim. From The New York Times:
But the United States has ruled out a Golden Temple visit, according to an American official involved in planning. Temple officials said that American advance teams had gone to Amritsar, the holy city where the temple is located, to discuss a possible visit. But the plan appears to have foundered on the thorny question of how Mr. Obama would cover his head, as Sikh tradition requires, while visiting the temple.
“To come to golden temple he needs to cover his head,” said Dalmegh Singh, secretary of the committee that runs the temple. “That is our tradition. It is their problem to cover the head with a Christian hat or a Muslim cap.”
Gawker, which drew my attention to the report, also quotes the Indian Express newspaper on efforts to come up with a “compromise” that would allow Obama to wear a baseball cap – a piece of head gear that would presumably not offend American racists back home.
Of course the President and most American politicians do everything they can to get themselves with a kippah, preferably at the Wailing Wall, in a synagogue or even in a death camp in Poland. The level of negotiation about Obama’s headdress on his visit to India reveals the extreme Islamophobia sweeping our country. Abunimah points out that Sikhs aren’t even Muslims, but it would be too politically risky for the President to be photographed with the required headdress in their Temple. I recommend reading the entire post.
Abunimah’s posts are such a welcome and interesting alternative to the mainstream media. I love his posts on Electronic Intifadah and really loved his book One Country: A Bold Proposal to end the Palestinian-Israeli Impasse, a challenging exploration of the different possibilities within a One State option with human rights and justice for all citizens regardless of ethnicity. We desperately need a discussion of such alternatives, as challenging as they are to most Jews. The possibility of a two state solution has been described as being a “closing window” or “five minutes to midnight” for at least two decades. When will the window close? Will it take another decade? When will the five minutes be up?
When will we begin to discuss alternatives? If you want to read a challenging, humane and important book, read Abunimah’s book. I would love to participate in discussions with American Jews and people of all faiths about the ideas in his book.
In the interim, you may find his post on headdress a horrifying look at the level of Islamophobia in our country and the surrender of the Administration to the prejudice.
If Obama had refused to wear a kippah – the Jewish ritual head-covering – when he went to Jerusalem, and instead insisted on wearing a baseball cap, he would have been declared not only disrespectful, but anti-Semitic as well. Of course the whole point of going to Jerusalem was for that photo-op, in order to buttress his pro-Israel credentials.
But in the current atmosphere of routine, endemic and escalating anti-Muslim incitement Obama has no fear of offending and denigrating Muslims. He also feeds racism against, and misunderstanding of Sikhs, whom racists often mistake for Muslims. Indeed this happened most tragically when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 52 year-old Sikh man in Mesa, Arizona was shot five times and killed on September 15, 2001 by Frank Roque in “revenge” for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Sikhs, along with Muslims and so many others, are just the latest to be thrown under Obama’s election campaign bus.