In this op-ed from USA Today, PUP author Thomas Kidd writes:
The fact that nearly 20% of Americans say that President Obama is a Muslim has certainly not kept him from talking to Muslims. Just in the past week, the president gave his second major address to the Muslim world, and issued greetings to Muslims for Eid-ul-Adha, the celebration of Abraham’s “willingness to sacrifice his son.” Even in this small act of presidential courtesy, however, Obama had to tread very carefully. Note that the administration did not include the name of Abraham’s son. Muslims believe that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Ishmael, while the Jewish and Christian Scriptures contend that it was Isaac — indeed, this is one of the most fundamental divergences between these religious traditions. The president wants to acknowledge the Muslim holiday, without exacerbating religious tensions.
Using this celebration as a point of entry, Kidd discusses the need for the president to stand up to would-be terrorists while maintaining lines of communication with the Muslim community, all as he continues to battle mis-information about his own religious beliefs. Kidd identifies this as a “nearly impossible balance” to achieve.
Kidd is an expert on the fraught relationship between America and Islam going back to the colonial times. His book with Princeton University Press, American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism, provides an essential history through which we can understand current debates about Islam in America.