We can debate whether or not it is fair to use Barack Hussein Obama's full name, but Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute, goes to ridiculous lengths to say it doesn't matter.
In response to the brouhaha over controversial remarks made by talk radio's Jim Cunningham as the opening act to a John McCain rally, Cole has a blog post entitled, Barack Hussein Obama, Omar Bradley, Benjamin Franklin and other Semitically Named American Heroes, where he argues in great detail that names like Barack Hussein Obama are no different than names like John Adams because they share "semitic" roots:
I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name. It is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages!
Cunningham is a serial jackass in my opinion, but this theory ignores the Judeo-Christian Biblical roots of names like "John" (you know, like John the Baptist) and the Muslim roots of names like "Hussein". This fatuous thinking would have us believe that the fact that Arabs and Jews are Semites somehow trumps their chasmal religious and cultural differences.
He then takes it a step further and implies that not only was it bigoted for Cunningham to use Obama's middle name, Cunningham wants to take away the citizenship of people with Muslim names:
I won't go into all the great Americans with Arabic names in sports, entertainment and business, against whom Cunningham would apparently discriminate on that basis. Does he want to take citizenship away from Kareem Abdul Jabbar [meaning "noble the servant of the Mighty"] and Ahmad Jamal [meaning "the most praised, beauty"]? What about Rihanna ["sweet basil," "aromatic"]? Tony Shalhoub [i.e. Mr. Monk]?
Uh, no, Mr. Cole, I don't recall anyone demanding any such thing (unlike the New York Times, who fantasize that John McCain is ineligible for the White House because he was born in Panama, but I digress). And what pray tell does the fact that a name can be translated to mean "sweet basil" have to do with the topic at hand? Isn't he getting a bit off course here?
Cole goes on to makes a questionable claim here:
Barack Obama's middle name is in honor of his grandfather, Hussein, a secular resident of Nairobi. But it has been reported that that Obama's grandfather, Onyango Hussein, was one of the first Muslim converts in the village.
Barack's grandfather's religion may be be irrelevant (unless Obama were to romanticize it to the point of where it adversely affected his foreign policy positions). Personally, I am more troubled by the fact that Barack's spiritual mentor Rev. Wright, who gave him the phrase, the audacity of hope, is an afro-centrist who greatly admires Louis Farrakhan and traveled with him to meet with Khadafi. However, when history professors claim that a Muslim convert is "secular" it raises questions about their agenda.
Indeed, If one reads Professor Cole's biography, one learns that he is (surprise!) a "progressive". At his home page he goes into great detail about his own American roots and genealogy, and we learn:
He married the former Shahin Malik in Lahore in 1982, and they have one son, Arman, born in 1987.
Gosh, I wonder if that could be clouding his perspective, and mushing all people with "semitic" names into one big bowl of progressive oatmeal, while ignoring the cultural and religious influences of the upbringing of men like John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, which were in no way, shape, or form Middle-Eastern, African, or Islamic?
The simple fact is, we are not all the same, and it's more than our names which make us different. Obama clearly thinks his heritage is important, and identifies with his biological father's African side, so why should we be asked to ignore it?