As Muslims in the United States celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the celebration which marks the end of Ramadan, a pernicious chain e-mail is making its rounds. The e-mail falsely claims that President Obama has issued a new postage stamp commemorating the two Eid celebrations and urges readers to boycott it, naming several terrorist attacks on the U.S. over the past twenty years. The full text of the e-mail can be seen in this post by Missives from Marx, who expresses frustration at the letter, saying:
I received the following email forward today from a family member. It is because of stuff like this that I’m going to have to spend four weeks of my Western Religions course deconstructing Muslim stereotypes. This is why critical thinking has to be an essential component of all my courses.
As it turns out, there's nothing new about the letter, or the stamp. About.com explains that the letter has been around since at least 2002, while the stamp itself was issued on September 1, 2001.
Aziz Poonwalla, on the BeliefNet blog City of Brass, explains the history of the e-mail:
Versions of the email, which has been making the rounds for years, have been repeatedly debunked before, but it still persists. I've blogged extensively about the history of the Eid stamp, the controversy that accompanied it when it was introduced (mostly from conservative Republicans), and the defense of the stamp by President Bush and Speaker Hastert. In a nutshell, the stamp was introduced on September 1st 2001, ten days before the 9-11 attacks, during the Bush Administration. Mayor Piper joins a long list of conservative politicians who have no objection to stamps commemorating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, even teh Chinese New year – but a stamp devoted to the muslim holiday of Eid is singled out as a threat, requiring response from “patriotic” Americans?
A post on the Clarksville Online, a blog for the town of Clarksville, Tennessee, explains why the e-mail has made major headlines this year:
Clarksville Tennessee’s Mayor, Johnny Piper has sent an inflammatory anti-Islamic email to employees of the city, encouraging them to boycott a stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service…
…Mayor Piper has since attempted to defend his actions, but they are simply indefensible. Muslims are a integral part of this country. They serve honorably in our armed forces, defending our nation, and our freedoms. No one should be treated like a second class citizens based on their religious beliefs, or the actions of a radical fringe. This incident created by our Mayor has been an embarrassment for our City, our State, and our Country.
Sheila Musaji has been tracking chain e-mails about the stamp for The American Muslim (TAM) since 2005, and in an update, remarks on Mayor Piper's abhorrent actions:
I’m certain the good mayor was just as surprised about President Obama’s White House Iftar.
And, of course the final recourse of all bigots: “I have some good Muslim friends,” he immediately added.”
Perhaps those good Muslim friends might enlighten him as to why THIS (PDF) is offensive.