The D’Oh of Xenophobia

When whackadoo xenophobia crosses wires with cultural illiteracy the results can be, if not tragic, then at least pretty comical.

Meet Circuit Judge Elijah Williams of Florida. He’s a veteran family court judge down in Broward County Florida and he faced a primary election on Tuesday. But a few weeks ago an group of bloggers began suggesting that Williams had not been straight with voters about being a Muslim.Only Williams isn’t a Muslim. So what was the evidence? Well, that his first name is “Elijah” and that’s a Muslim name. Only, of course, “Elijah” isn’t a Muslim name. To the extent that names have religions, it’s a Christian name. Actually, it’s an anglicized version of a Hebrew name that has been assimilated into being a Christian name.

Presumably the confusion is that longtime leader (actually not the founder) of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Mohammed (who was born into a Christian family in Georgia in in 1897 as Elijah Poole) was Muslim so Elijah’s a Muslim name.

“It was a bit surreal,” Williams told the Miami Herald. “I ended up explaining to people — some of them prominent, educated people who asked about this — that if my name concerned them, they should know `Elijah’ has Hebrew roots, that Elijah was a prominent prophet and leader in the Old Testament. But the situation was also uncomfortable.”