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In the News The Powell Doctrine

October 22, 2008

“Muslim has now become a pejorative word...There'll come a day [when] you'll have to use a politically correct term, like pork-free Americans.”
Dean Obeidallah, Arab-American lawyer turned comedian

It was the endorsement that understandably produced the headlines out of Colin Powell's appearance on Meet the Press, but a point the general made along the way is proving to have legs of its own.

On the persistent allegations that Sen. Obama is a Muslim, the "correct" answer, Powell said, is that he's not, but the "really right answer is, what if he is?"

What was perhaps most striking about the question was how long it took for anyone of real stature, in either party, to ask it. As Maureen Dowd pointed out in her column on the subject, "even the Obama campaign has shied away from Muslims." Still, as Dowd said, it was "a gratifying 'have you no sense of decency' moment" -- an eloquent and moving call for tolerance and fairness in the heat of a brutal campaign.

With all credit to Gen. Powell, if you've been watching FRONTLINE/World recently, you'll have heard this point made already, by Dean Obeidallah, a young Arab-American lawyer turned stand-up comic with a knack for delivering thoughtful social commentary in a very funny way.

If you've not seen our piece, you can do so here.

Sidebar: What got Powell thinking about this issue, he told Tom Brokaw, was a photograph of a Muslim mother grieving at the grave site of her son, a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. The picture ran in a recent New Yorker photo essay on American servicemen and women and their families. You can see it, and the series, here, and watch the relevant piece of Powell's comments starting about four-and-a-half minutes into this clip from Meet the Press.

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