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As the week began, I planned to write this column about some implications of Barack Obama's Sunday night Oval Office address. I noted that he devoted about one-fifth of this 13-minute speech to pleas that Americans not discriminate against Muslims.

"It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination," he said. "It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently."

At one level, this is an anodyne statement. As a general proposition, discrimination by religion is against the best in American tradition and the letter of American law. George W. Bush, it may be recalled, made similar statements in the days after Sept. 11, 2001.

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