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The good news about Barack Hussein Obama is that 87% of my Spanish readers would vote for him. This results are almost exactly like the most global polling taken by Iftheworldcould vote. Now the bad news is that when I decided to change my middle name on the internet during the last days of the election to Martin Hussein Varsavsky, around half of my Spanish readers spoke against the move. What I infer from this is that Spanish readers seem to be far more willing to accept a leader of the world with an African father than a leader of the world with a Muslim father. Personally it was interesting to use Hussein as a middle name because while I had experienced antisemitism I had never experienced what Islamophobia felt like. Some of my Spanish comentators were in favor of my endorsement of Obama but not in the same percentage as when they voted for Obama in my blog poll. Others were not openly Islamophobic but they said that they found my endorsement silly, crazy, and stupid. Others went further. One of them said that while she supports Obama my adopting Hussein as a middle name, was ” a total irresponsibility because the real danger to the world today is Islam” and goes on to call Muslims “the devil”.

As I read that comment I remembered the many times that my Muslim friends have told me how frequently they were harassed at US immigration, or just going around Europe in spite of the large numbers of Muslims who live in that continent. As my good friend Daniel Lubetzky, founder of One Voice says, our objective in the Middle East should be to amplify the voice of the majority, the moderates. As we know the vast majority of Muslims around the world have never been involved in acts of terrorism. This blog episode reminded me of the McCain moment when he said that Obama was not an Arab that he was a decent man as if “decent” was the opposite of Arab. So as Martin Hussein Varsavsky, for a few days I could experience how bad it feels to be blamed, as a whole culture, for an activity, terrorism, that while horribly harmful, it is practiced by an tiny percentage of its members.

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Rami Hussein Morante on October 31, 2008  · 

Well, Martin, I agreed. There is a group of spanish people or maybe not only from Spain (could be from other countries) which is paralized when somebody mention the Islam (and sometimes the Judaism, or even some christian movements, not catholic), so only the idea to have a new world leader with this “unusual”** background and “unusual”** ancestors (or skin color) is enough to start the paranoia…

I changed my name too, because I thought that was a good idea to fight against this kind of “urban idiotness”.

In my case, I was born in the old jewish neighborhood (Once) in Buenos Aires, in 76 (not a good year for many people by the way, sad year), jewish doctor was with my mother during my birth, the Ezrah Clinic was in charge of the analysis during the 9 months process (well I decided to see the light at the 7th month!), and the best friends (and helpful) of my mother were jewish (I still remember the name of one of them “Sarah Maslaton”). During my whole life a heard about antisemitism, and most recently “islamophobia”,etc. I just can remember one thing: The only person in Buenos Aires who gave a job to my father, and took care about him (when he arrived to the city) was a jewish gentleman (unfortunately I dont remember the name anymore)..So what can I say? I do not want to defend any group, just I´m telling my experience… and I know very nice people from the muslim world, or christians, or whatever.
I think first we need to learn what is democracy, then understand about it, then practice. If we can do that maybe nobody will be paranoid when a new leader is coming with a background like Barack Hussein Obama.

Hasta pronto, un cordial abrazo desde Berlin.

Rami Hussein Morante 😉

**Unusual: Unusual for them! Closed minds.

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anne on October 31, 2008  · 

Hmm. That’s not good. I cannot read Spanish — what were the nature of the comments? The truth is that while Obama was actually raised by his American Christian mother and grandparents, in our country, there should theoretically be nothing wrong with Obama running for president as a Muslim-American or having Hussein as his middle name. General Colin Powell was sadly the first and only person to point this out in the public conversation just a couple of weeks ago while endorsing Obama. Hillary Clinton is the one who started using Obama’s full name insinuatingly in her speeches. However, given the extremely tense feelings on the subject of Islam and radical fundamentalists and terrorism these days, it understandably a sensitive subject. If the Republican party had not gone so far from its roots and embraced the Christian fundamentalists and made their values a part of its governing platform, it would not have alienated as many moderate conservatives that it did. The point being that, in America, there is the ideal of a separation between church and state. Once that principle is respected, it shouldn’t matter if the president is Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Mormon. You start to get into trouble in situations where, as in England, it was decided that some English courts will enforce Sharia law judgments. This would in essence have the effect of rolling back the civil rights of female British subjects because, as I understand it, Sharia law treats women differently. These are the kinds of legitimate issues that non-racists worry about when they consider the modern trend of a lack of assimilation of western ideas and cultural values by immigrant communities.

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Gaetan on October 31, 2008  · 

Maybe it is a reaction to the Atocha station bombing? I suppose there has been less direct threat perceived by Spaniards in their own backyard coming from Jewish/Israelites in recent memory than from their Muslim citizens/guests. Of course, this is only a suggestion: I am neither Spanish or living in Spain. It only echoes what seems to be the case here in the UK.

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rayos y centellas on October 31, 2008  · 

i tried to change my Facebook name too, like 15 times at least. then I got a message saying my name change functionality had been blocked for two weeks… maybe they detected that lots of us were trying the same thing it disabled that possibility? Weird… Makes you wonder

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javier on October 31, 2008  · 


I wouldn’t consider the comments in your spanish blog like an example of anyting. The people that comment there use to focus in non-realted topics, ask about your personal life (if you don’t want to tell it’s your business) and complain about everything. I’ve seen comments saing that education is bad after the age of 12… Other comments made you stop talking about politics in Argentina, while your opinion is valid as any other one…

We can’t forget the comments when you write about the importance of learning English. They start to say that for working like plumber in Carabanchel (a poor suburb of Madrid) is not necessary be able to speak english. Of course not, but an education that doesn’t include English limits the students to be plumbers in Carabanchel.

I like more your blog in Spanish than in English, but good comments use to be in the English one.

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Any on October 31, 2008  · 

You tried a muslim name, now you should try a christian name and see what happens… My suggestion try Martin Adolf Varsavsky… 🙂

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anne on October 31, 2008  · 


I am curious to know what you and your non-American friends think of proposition 8 in California this year.

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Martin Varsavsky on October 31, 2008  · 

@ anne:

I already said what I thought about it. I live in a country in which gay marriage is legal and I am in favor of gay marriage. I am also in favor of everyone who feels like I do to demonstrate against Proposition 8. Now what I am not in favor of is corporations to declare themselves against it because corporations are not democracies and I am concerned that corporations today may be for something i am for, like gay marriage but tomorrow for something i am against, like limiting choice.

Eric on November 3, 2008  · 

In a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s 2008 Global Attitudes Project, Spaniards came off as amongst the most racist (in terms of being both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic) in Europe.

In Spain, unfavorable views towards Jews was up from 21% (2005) to 46% this years; and 52% had negative views of Muslims.

There is also, ironically, in the European press a fascination with the question as to whether the racist Americans may actually vote for a black president. The obvious is answer is yes, though he may not win. Obama is by far the mainstream candidate with endorsements from all of the mainstream newspapers and with astonishingly record high donations from private citizens, mainly white. More importantly, the African American candidate now looks, acts, and talks more like the average American than does his counterparts.

But the real question isn’t whether Americans will vote for an African American candidate by why there is almost no political representation by minority groups at all in European political life.

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Jon on November 3, 2008  · 

I think that this post it isn’t fair with most of the spanish readers (yes, I’m one) because you should know that most people in spain preffers Obama than McCain. The people who we supported to obama we are more tolerant and we abstained to make commentaries because it isn’t necessary.

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