Most Democrats are quick to point out that Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. They do this in part because it's true, but in part because the word "Muslim" has become the newest dirty word. The rebuttal comes a little too quickly, the disdain a little too evident. The reason the woman at the McCain rally spat the word "Arab" is because she deemed it the ultimate insult. It's our version of the 17th-century "witch." All you have to do is point to someone and say it (or "terrorist") and whoever is accused must swim, and be burned, or sink, and drown. Whoever uses the label wields all power.
But since when is Muslim a bad word? What if John McCain or Barack Obama were Muslims? I KNOW they aren't -- but so what if they were? Since when is a Muslim incapable of ruling the country? If Americans think Christians should be the only ones allowed to run for office, then they should put it in writing (so I can move to Canada). Religion isn't a prerequisite for holding office. What are people afraid of? That a Muslim president would break out some kind of crazy machine that turns them into jihad-loving terrorists? That logic is seriously flawed. Did John F. Kennedy convert the masses to Catholicism? Did George W. Bush turn everyone into evangelicals? Mitt Romney holds congressional power; do you suddenly feel yourself morphing into a Mormon? Of course not; people decide what they will believe by soul-searching, maybe by following the lead of a pastor or a friend. They do not expect their president to convert them to one religion or another.
And even if the president were able to break out this magical crazy Muslim-loving machine, there's nothing to fear from Islam. It's a peaceful religion that worships the same God Christians do, shares the same Bible (with additions), and holds the same values (often, tighter). It stems directly from the Old Testament, in fact; its brother-religion is Judaism. Both share a family tree. The people America fears are radicals. Just like Christians -- remember the Branch Davidians? Or those nike-wearing people who killed themselves to prepare for incoming aliens? -- that religion has extremists. Extremists are not the rule; they are the exception. They are not Islam, incarnate. They are not model Muslims, just as the Davidians were not model Christians.
In short, we shouldn't stand for the stigmatization of Muslim or Arab. We shouldn't let the mob make dirty what isn't.