Cohen has the kernel of an important idea in his op-ed. Obama ought indeed visit a mosque, but not on his own. He should go to an Islamic house of worship together with John McCain. The two of them should use their time in the Mosque to publicly debate their views on the role of religion in American politics.Now there Roger Cohen is a much more lively idea than just a plain old vanilla visit...
...Yet, because he’s named Barack Hussein Obama, and because his Kenyan grandfather was a Muslim, and because his commitment to Israel has been questioned, and because the U.S. Rorschach test is Muslim-menace mired, he’s had to tread carefully.
As Andrea Elliott chronicled in an important article in The Times, Obama has visited churches and synagogues, but no mosque. He had to apologize after two Muslim women wearing head scarves were barred from appearing behind him at a recent rally in Detroit.
Obama should visit a mosque. He has repeatedly shown his courage during this campaign; Americans have responded to his intellectual honesty. One of the important things about him is the knowledge his Kenyan and Indonesian experiences have given him of Islam as lived, rather than Islam as turned into monstrous specter.
This enables him to break the monolithic, alienating view of a great world religion that is as multifaceted as Judaism or Christianity.
I’ve no doubt that Obama is a strong supporter of Israel. But what I find as important is that he would come to Islam without prejudice. That’s the precondition for dialogue, whether with Iran or between Israel and Palestine.