Monday, August 24, 2009

He Ignores Our Own National Prayer Day, But Sends Ramadan Greetings

I have no problem with Obama recently sending Ramadan greetings to Muslims around the world. Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting. It's a time when Muslims fast for the sake of Allah. Ramadan was also the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Actually, listen to Obama's YouTube greeting--he does a much better job than I do of explaining what Ramadan is all about. I wonder if Obama will also send out Yom Kippur greetings to Jews at the end of September? Kwanzaa greetings to African-Americans in December? How about YouTube greetings to Christians next Easter? But regardless of what he may or may not do for other religious groups, for the President of the United States to ignore our country's National Prayer Day sends a strange message, I think. Particularly in light of this recent Ramadan greeting.

OK, to be exact, technically he didn't ignore the prayer day in May, since he did sign a proclamation honoring National Prayer Day, which Congress has observed since 1952. The day is set aside as a day when people all over the country are asked to come together and pray, especially for their country. During his administration, President Bush acknowledged the day with an ecumentical prayer service in the White House East Room. Perhaps still needing to show that he is "not Bush," aside from the paper proclamation, there was no observance of the day in the Obama White House. Explained WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Obama would observe the day as he does any other day, with private prayers. Gibbs, I don't think "private prayer" like any other day is the point of the day. Gibbs's glib answer seems to indicate that, just as Obama sometimes doesn't quite "get it" that the President's words carry greater weight than other people saying the same thing, he also doesn't seem to understand that his actions carry symbolic weight. On the other hand, maybe he understands very well. And OK, Obama, we get it, you're not Bush.

"Toning down" National Prayer Day in the White House, which was how a CNN headline put it, wasn't seen as much of a big deal by many people back in May. I doubt that the non-day in Obama's White House was reported by the perky Katie Couric at CBS News, for example. In fact, in some circles, Obama was praised for his non-action. Said David Silverman, national spokesperson for the organization of American Atheists, "It's not his job to tell people to pray." Will Silverman have anything to say about Obama's five-minute Ramadan greeting to Muslims around the world? I guess I won't hold my breath waiting to hear from him.

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