Powell Denounces Muslim-Bashing: ‘That’s Not America’

As former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president on the NBC-TV program “Meet the Press” on Oct. 19, 2008, the conversation with host Tom Brokaw turned to tactics in the campaign that Powell said had “disappointed” him.  Below is a verbatim portion of Powell’s comments:

Now, I understand what politics is all about.  I know how you can go after one another, and that’s good.  But I think this goes too far.  And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow.  It’s not what the American people are looking for.  And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me.

Colin Powell photo by Brendan Smialowski / Meet the PressAnd the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift.  I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration.

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.”

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?

The answer’s no, that’s not America.

Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.”

This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.  It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.

And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.  And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old.

And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David; it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.  And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.  And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know.  But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

Transcript from MSNBC

Powell alluded to a photograph of the grave of a Muslim American soldier published in the September 2008 edition of the New Yorker magazine, part of a photo essay by the photographer Platon titled “Service.” You can view the photo essay on the New Yorker web site here. You can read an article about the soldier, Kareem Khan, on the Arlington National Cemetery web site here

Photo of Elsheba Khan by Platon in the New Yorker

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