Islamophobia in US Presidential election campaign

Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Posted Oct 11, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Islamophobia in US Presidential election campaign

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

- Republican Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain says that the United States is a Christian nation and that his Christian faith is of better spiritual guidance than Islam.

- Republican presidential candidate Congressman Tom Tancredo reiterates his support for considering “taking out Muslim holy sites” if another terror attack were to take place on American soil.

- Republican Congressman Peter King, political advisor of another presidential hopeful, Rudy Giuliani, says that there are too many mosques in the United States and said that they should be placed under surveillance by the FBI.

This rhetoric clearly seeks to exploit the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim atmosphere prevailed in the post-9/11 America thanks to the government’s internal and external policies as well as some political and religious leaders and agenda-driven media.

In recent months we are witnessing an alarming increase in Islamophobia by Republican political leaders who wants to exploit this anti-Muslim atmosphere.

Americans’ attitudes about Islam and Muslims are fuelled mainly by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the negative image of Islam and Muslims. The vilification of Islam and Muslims has been relentless among segments of the media and political classes since 9/11. Politicians, authors and media commentators are busy in demonizing Islam, Muslims and the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the events of 9/11 were used as an excuse to greatly magnify the hostility toward Muslims and cloak it in pseudo-patriotism. Unfortunately, Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States.

Senator McCain, who has seen the erosion of his popularity as a Republican presidential candidate from front-runner to near-collapse, not only says that the United States is a Christian nation but insists that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Senator McCain has clearly forgotten that our nation’s Founding Fathers created a government based on the separation of church and state. They based the US on democracy and pluralism, not on theocracy and religion. According to David Kuo, the former deputy director of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Mr. McCain is a man pandering to what he thinks the Christian conservative community wants to hear.

It was shocking to hear Tom Tancredo, another Republican presidential candidate, again threatening to bomb the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia as retaliation for any future terrorist attack on the United States. Such bigoted words can contribute to anti-Americanism, endangering Americans and providing al-Qaida and its ilk with a tool to recruit and raise funds. It is obvious that Tancredo is trying to gain attention due to the fact that his support among Republican voters is stuck at one percent.

In 2006, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo earned the title of Mr. Bigotry for similar remarks. He was listed as one of the 10 worst Congressmen in Rolling Stone magazine. He also made xenophobic and racist comments urging America to reject the “siren song of multiculturalism. Last year he refused to apologize for suggesting the United States could nuke Muslim holy sites if radical Islamic terrorists set off multiple nuclear attacks in American cities. “It’s a tough issue to deal with. Tough things are said. And we should not shy away from saying things that need to be said.”

Front runner Republican Presidential hopeful, Rudy Giuliani, has endorsed his political advisor, Congressman Peter King’s statement that there are too many mosques in this country which should be put under surveillance. Giuliani has refused to ask King to retract his statement. New York Congressman is a ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Giuliani’s reaction to King’s statement was not surprising since he his surrounded by such Islamophobes as Daniel Pipes, who has advocated for the racial profiling of Muslim Americans. He has also argued that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was not the moral offense it’s been portrayed as, though he doesn’t say Muslims should suffer the same. For Pipes, who is wedded to his personal political agenda, a “bad” Muslim is a Muslim who challenges his views on Israel and a “good” Muslim is one who agrees with them; in his “scholarly” lingo, the code terms are “Islamist” and “moderate” respectively.

American Muslims were dismayed to watch 41 Republican Congressmen refusing to vote on a historic resolution that recognized “the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world,” rejected “hatred, bigotry and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide” and “[commended] Muslims in the United States and across the globe who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence and terror.”

One wonders if Islamophobia, which may be defined as “alienation, discrimination, harassment and violence rooted in misinformed and stereotyped representations of Islam and its adherents,” is a de facto Republican Party policy.

Not surprisingly, other bigots are seizing this opportunity to create hatred against Islam and Muslims. Under the banner of “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”  (Oct. 22-26), rightist activist David Horowitz’s Freedom Center is organizing speaking engagements at colleges and universities for the likes of Ann Coulter, Daniel Pipes, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, Robert Spencer, Rick Santorium and Wafa Sultan. Organizers are billing the event as the “biggest conservative campus protest ever.” However many events were canceled at a handful of universities, where administrators and student groups called the event divisive and hateful.

The rhetoric against Islam and Muslims clearly seeks to alienate the seven-million strong Muslim American community and feeds into the dangerous climate of Islamophobia. Unfortunately, more than six years after 9/11, American Muslims remain concerned with the growing trend of Islamophobia which has now become mainstream.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective –  email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)