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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Headshot

If an American President Were Muslim, Would We Care?

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So Brian Williams asks President Obama what he thinks of the fact that one fifth all Americans believes he is a Muslim. The President gets defensive and sheepishly responds that this issue was put to bed during the campaign.

But let's ask ourselves an honest question for a moment. If he were a Muslim, would it matter? Yes, he isn't, and has said time and again that he is a Christian. But if he were a Muslim, I couldn't care less. My problem with Obama is not his faith or lack thereof, but his policies. If Obama were an Islamic president of the United States who berated instead of coddled Arab dictators, like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, he would have my vote. If he were a practicing Muslim who prayed in the direction of the Had but promoted democracy across the Middle East, rather than Kissingerian realpolitik, which seems to be the foundation of his foreign policy, I would endorse him. If he were a devout Muslim first magistrate of the United States who spoke out against the abuses of women in the Islamic world, I would deeply respect him. If he were a Muslim who prayed in the Oval Office five times a day and fasted all of Ramadan and then lectured Hamas and Hezbollah to stop putting all their money into rockets against Israel and invest it instead into universities for their people, he would inspire me.

The problem with President Obama is that he does none of these things, rarely holding the Islamic world accountable for its absence of freedoms, refusing to personally condemn Iran for its plan to stone a woman to death and putting the pressure on Netanyahu of Israel to make territorial concessions rather than place the blame for the failure of the progress toward peace squarely on the real culprits: the terrorist organizations of Hamas and Hezbollah, both Iranian proxies.

I have devout Muslim friends who love Israel and wish Arab countries emulated its democratic institutions, just courts and freedom of worship and press. Likewise, I have G-dfearing Islamic friends who love America, would fight and die to protect her, and believe America is the light in an increasingly dark world. I would support anyone like this for president any day of the week over, say, Jimmy Carter, a devout and self-declared evangelical Christian, who goes against the stalwart evangelical Christian support for Israel and has the chutzpa to call Israel, a thriving democracy facing existential enemies, an apartheid state. I would take a competent Muslim president who believes in lowering the burden of taxation, controlling runaway spending, and vastly reducing the appalling federal deficit over a president like Jimmy Carter, who as our leader, ran this country into the ground.

As a Jew, I am trained to judge someone by their actions, not their beliefs. I will choose an atheist president, who loves and respects all of humanity and would put an end to the genocide in Sudan any day over a religious president who believes that we Americans have no such responsibilities to people beyond our border.

If an American president believed in elves and the Easter bunny but fought Taliban misogynists who pour acid on women who attend university, I would follow him.

And if an American president spoke Klingon in his private moments and worshipped Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise as a divinity, but set up an alternative to the United Nations, to be known as the United Democratic Nations, open only to governments that were of the people and by the people, I would support him, too.

In short, I could not care less what a person believes, but rather what they do.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 23 books and was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium. As host of 'Shalom in the Home' on TLC he won the National Fatherhood Award and his syndicated column was awarded the American Jewish Press Association's Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. Newsweek calls him 'the most famous Rabbi in America.' He has just published 'Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.' Shmuley hosts 'The Shmuley Show' live every Sunday from 7-9 p.m. on 77 WABC Talk Radio. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.