Some have called Cornel West’s scathing critique of Barack Obama petty, while others—including some in the Muslim community—argue that America would be better off without four more years of Barack Obama. Which is not to say that either West or disgruntled pockets within the Muslim community prefer Romney over Obama, but only that his less than progressive politics, they believe, would do little to alter the status quo. So, what changed?
A most insidious impediment to a dignified existence for Muslims in America is the basic misunderstanding of the truism that Islam and secularism are mutually exclusive. Inasmuch as America is a “secular democracy,” many non-Muslims insist that no religion that positions itself as the polar opposite of the secular should be allowed to play a meaningful role in determining the country’s direction. In fact, in their view, allowing Muslims to influence public debate risks undermining the country’s secular order. Meanwhile, many Muslims quietly share aspects of this perspective, even if for practical reasons they come to a different set of conclusions. They too see an inherent contradiction between Islam and the secular, as a result of which they view participation in American public life almost as a necessary evil, to be indulged only out of a sense of duress, sort of like eating swine to ward off starvation.