My name is Sandi Mays Saunders. I am a 50 year old, married for 28 years, mother of two grown (23 and 25) children. I live in rural Virginia and work as a bookkeeper for a heavy construction company. I am only a high school graduate, no formal education, just the school of hard knocks. For this assignment, I asked my daughter to respond. She is 25 and although born and raised in Virginia as a Christian, she converted to Islam and married a wonderful young man from Pakistan (they live just outside Philadelphia, PA) and this is their response to the question, "How are Muslims responding to presidential campaign slurs?"
I support Barack Obama because I believe in his ideas for America. I specifically agree with his energy plan, his call for diplomacy around the world (even with our "enemies") and his promotion of public service and volunteerism.
I am profoundly disappointed in Americans who use 'Muslim' or 'Arab' as a slur and those who consider it to be a slur. These terms are used to frighten people away from Obama, but I believe they are also a slightly more socially-acceptable way of saying "he's black and that's scary," and they reflect a deep racist vein running through the U.S. The slurs are so effective because most people here WOULD have a problem with a Muslim president.
I'm glad to see McCain this week publicly standing up to some of his own supporters who have challenged him about these issues. I'm not sure why McCain allowed his campaign, his running mate and his supporters to plant the seeds of this hatred. Now when he stands up to rabid supporters who want him to call out Obama for "being a terrorist" he's booed. But his supporters are simply reacting to what he fed them.
Obama's response has been adequate, he's made it clear that he's a Christian and that anti-Muslim sentiment is a problem in the U.S. However, he should have done much more to reach out to the Muslim community. In his desire to distance himself from the rumors he has disappointed and alienated a lot of his Muslim and Arab supporters. His campaign is overly sensitive to any criticism about his "Islamic connections" -- the resignation of his Muslim Affairs coordinator, issues with his new Muslim Outreach director and the incident with the girls in headscarves in the crowd at one of his speeches are some examples of this delicate relationship. I wish he had ignored the right-wing attacks and showed that he wouldn't be manipulated by their fear mongering.
All these negative events and slurs have not changed how I see America, they have only reinforced my opinions. I was raised here and I'm well-aware of our horrible problems with racism and nationalism.
I never cease to be amazed at how extreme and deranged Republicans can be, but I still have hope. An Obama leadership could be the kind that gets us out of that terrible habit. A McCain administration would be disastrous and would not promote peace and tolerance here or anywhere else in the world.
Obama could address this specific form of racism by associating himself with American-Muslim organizations and leaders who are spreading positive and peaceful Islamic values. He has already acknowledged the Jewish values and traditions that he appreciates.
Publicly acknowledging the Islamic traditions that he appreciates would help fight the "Othering" of Muslims. His expansion and promotion of diplomacy and the Peace Corps will help Americans understand and cooperate with people in other countries rather than only meeting them in war.