Muslim country

MUSLIM COUNTRY…. Perusing the New York Times’ political blog this morning, I came across this headline: “Obama Says U.S. Could Be Seen as a Muslim Country, Too.” I immediately thought, “Well, I guess we know what cable news and conservative blogs will be excited about today.” From the NYT piece:

In an interview with Laura Haim on Canal Plus, a French television station, Mr. Obama noted that the United States also could be considered as “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”

True to form, the right is apoplectic this morning. They need not be. Here’s the actual quote from the president:

“Now, the flip side is I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam. And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. And so there’s got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”

Greg Sargent explained, “Hard-core rhetoricians will note that Obama was employing an obscure tense known as the ‘conditional,’ and an arcane rhetorical device known as a ‘hypothetical.’ He said that if you were to take the number of Muslims in America, then one could see America as ranking up there with other Muslim countries — in numerical, hypothetical terms.”

This really isn’t complicated. In fact, given the size of the U.S. population, and the rich diversity of our spiritual landscape, you can pick practically any faith tradition, plug it into the president’s sentence, and it’d be true, too. If you took the number of Christians in the U.S., we’d be one of the largest Christian countries in the world. If you took the number of Jews in the U.S., we’d be one of the largest Jewish countries in the world. If you took the number of Hindus in the U.S., we’d be one of the largest Hindu countries in the world. If you took the number of Buddhists in the U.S., we’d be one of the largest Buddhist countries in the world.

That doesn’t mean we’re a Hindu country, or a Jewish Country, or a Christian Country, or a Muslim country, or a Buddhist country.