When I've heard the phrase in the past, I've always understood it to mean core or main or central to a concept... that the fabric of something is what that something is made of, that without that something, either the substance is changed entirely or not made at all.
But perhaps I'm wrong about that understanding.
I mean, I'm having trouble attaching that understood meaning to what Obama said yesterday about Islam:
For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer, and reflection; a time of joy and celebration. It’s a time to cherish family, friends, and neighbors, and to help those in need.
This year, Ramadan holds special meaning for those citizens in the Middle East and North Africa who are courageously achieving democracy and self-determination and for those who are still struggling to achieve their universal rights.
The United States continues to stand with those who seek the chance to decide their own destiny, to live free from fear and violence, and to practice their faith freely. Here in the United States, Ramadan reminds us that Islam is part of the fabric of our Nation, and that—from public service to business, from healthcare and science to the arts—Muslim Americans help strengthen our country and enrich our lives.
Lex Communis atempts to make sense of this while asking tough questions:
If the idea is that Muslims are equal citizens in the United States, then it is fair to say that Muslims are part of the fabric of our nation. Presumably, insofar as Muslims are part of the fabric of our nation, then the faith they hold is part of that fabric.
But is Islam qua Islam a part of the fabric of the nation? Well, obviously not. Islam has played no part in the shaping of the institutions and culture of this attitude, and to the extent that Obama means to imply that it does, he's simply pandering.
A further thought, though, is what happened to Obama's approach to role of religion in the public square? Has he ever identified Christianity as part of the "fabric of our nation"? His approach to Catholicism clearly distinguishes between the faith of Catholics - which gets no special recognition from him - and Catholics as part of the fungible mix of deracinated people without any particular commitment to anything in particular.
Bottom line, Obama is awfully solicitious of Muslims.
It is interesting how Obama goes out of his way to be gracious and open to Muslims while seemingly going out of his way to isolate and alienate Catholics.
You can't help but ask the question.
Why is that Mr. President?