The Last Of The Muslim Republicans
by Dr. Hesham Hassaballa
In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
I have been a registered Republican for as long as I have been active in political life. I even left my wife—in labor—at the hospital to vote for George W. Bush in 2000. Yet, in the intervening years, it has become more and more difficult for me to stay in the Republican Party. I may be, in fact, one of the last Muslim Republicans left in America.
I feel most at home in the GOP: it is the party of Abraham Lincoln, in whose land I live; the party that emancipated the slaves; the party that believes the best government is the smallest government. And since I tend to be conservative on many social issues, being a Republican just made sense to me.
Many American Muslims joined me in casting votes for President Bush in 2000; in fact, it may have been the Muslim vote in Florida that helped get President Bush elected. Yet, ever since that day, I have felt nothing but hostility and negativity about Islam and Muslims coming from prominent Republican leaders and supporters.
To his credit, Bush did come out and support the American Muslim community when it was under siege due in the initial hysteria that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But those days of unity and closeness have long since vanished, and I feel more and more out of place in the Republican Party. For the past seven years, prominent supporters of the president, such as evangelists Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson, and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, issued scathing attacks, not against Muslim extremists, but at the religion of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran.
Islam is an “evil, wicked” religion; the Prophet Muhammad was a “terrorist”; The Quran is a book that advocates the killing of innocents. We all know the drill well. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado even called for the bombing of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in response to another 9/11-style attack.
The response from the president was silence—deafening silence.
Not only that, he seemed to equate Islam with fascism by calling our enemies “Islamo-fascists,” although it should be noted that he and other White House officials have since backed off of that term.
This anti-Islam rhetoric continues in the Republican race for the White House. Front-runner Rudy Giuliani takes issue with calling terrorists what they truly are: fanatical extremists. He insists we call them Islamic terrorists, as if he wants to highlight their Muslim faith. In addition, Giuliani now has the support of Robertson, who has said Islam seeks to “control, dominate and then if need be, destroy.” Tancredo has defended his campaign TV ad that shows a hooded terrorist blowing up a shopping mall. “There are people in this country who are preaching hatred from mosques,” he said. “There are people who are planning to do bad things beyond getting the job that other Americans don’t want.”
As I hear these attacks against my religion, and then hear no response from national GOP leaders, I keep wondering to myself, “Am I even welcome in the Republican Party?” That’s part of the reason I didn’t vote for Bush in 2004, and it really makes me think twice about voting for a Republican come 2008. I suspect most American Muslims feel the same way.
Is there hope for the GOP and Muslims? Is there anything the GOP can do to bring Muslims back into their fold? First of all, GOP leaders and candidates should reject the fearmongering and hateful rhetoric. They should declare outright that our enemies are fanatical extremists—some of whom cloak their evil in the garbs of Islam—and not all Muslims. Our war, they must say, is not against Islam, but against those who would use Islam to justify the murder of innocents all across the world.
More importantly, the GOP must reach out to Muslim Americans, many of whom share the same political and moral values. The party must work with them on the local and national level, so that the party truly represents all segments of American society. If they want my vote, Republicans must return to the values that made the party great—the values of Lincoln. They are values that have been abandoned of late, especially during the Bush presidency.
I truly do not want to abandon the Republican party, but unless things change, I cannot keep from asking if the party has already abandoned me.
Visit Dr. Hassaballa’s site at http://drhassaballa.blogspot.com/ This article was published by the Religion News Service on November 30, 2007.