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Monday, July 26, 2004

Kerry on American Muslims.

With the DNC in town, the Boston Globe is churning out stories at an astonishing pace. One of the upsides is that we finally get to hear longer descriptions of a candidate's unscripted conversations with voters. Patrick Healy reports on an encounter John Kerry had with an American Muslim father and son in a neighborhood meeting in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday. It's well worth reading:

In Ward 62 of Columbus, a suburban tract known as Park Ridge where George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just 12 votes out of 4,806 cast in 2000, Kerry pulled up to a cul-de-sac yesterday and found a scene more typical closer to Election Day. Throngs of Democrats and Republicans were squared off on a narrow sidewalk, with dueling chants of ''Kerry-Edwards" and ''Flip-Flop Kerry."

His 90-minute neighborhood meeting, part of Kerry's six-day tour of America en route to the Boston convention, was the stuff of political theater — not only the protesters, who reflected the divisions of this crucial battleground state, but also an unscripted exchange between Kerry, a Muslim man, and the man's 6-month-old son about the fear of Islam among some Americans today.

The man, Abdul Rashid, a coordinator in a Verizon business support center, said that he had endured feelings of animosity and separation all his life as a Muslim living in a predominantly Christian country, but that the stigma has grown far worse since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"I'm a proud American," Rashid said, standing in the cul-de-sac and surrounded by a racially diverse audience of 150 people, as Kerry listened under a large sycamore tree. ''I'm very happy being an American, being born and raised in this country. But one thing I don't want is to make my son feel ostracized as time goes on — especially now with a lot of Bush's theological beliefs interfacing with his political beliefs."

Kerry took Rashid's young son, Hasim, in his arms, and responded as the adorable child played with Kerry's tie and microphone.

"I want everybody to look at Hasim," Kerry said. ''How old is Hasim?"

"Six months," his father replied.

"At six months, at one year, at two years — has anybody ever met a child who hates anybody?" Kerry asked the crowd. ''I'm a Catholic. Hasim's Muslim. And there are, I hope, Jews, other denominations here, and maybe people who are agnostic, I don't know. But here's what I know: I'm running to be president of the United States of America," he said, emphasizing the word united. ''I'm running to be president of all of the American people, all of our citizens."

Hasim interrupted Kerry's remarks by nearly ripping the microphone off Kerry's tie, drawing laughter from the onlookers. ''Can I talk?" Kerry joked to the little boy. ''Ohio State, look out."

Once the chuckles subsided, he came to his point: ''Ladies and gentleman, when John Edwards and I are in there, we are going to have an attorney general who doesn't make any American feel the way this man feels." The attack on John Ashcroft elicited strong applause, and Kerry was willing to hand back Hasim. ''Want to go back to daddy? Want to go back to daddy, or want to come to the White House with me?"

The Massachusetts senator, who has spoken about Islam infrequently on the campaign trail, wasn't ready to give up the issue.

"I know this: If I were president of the United States today, I would have long ago reached out to clerics, imams, mullahs, to leaders of other religions, to the true leaders of Islam, so that we are isolating radical Islamic extremists, rather than radical Islamic extremists isolating the United States of America. And that's what I intend to do," Kerry said.

The Bush campaign condemned Kerry after he had emphasized that his preconvention campaigning would largely avoid attacks on the president.

("A full day wraps up at Fenway," Patrick Healy, Boston Globe 7.26.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 26 July 2004 at 8:20 AM

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