Why Does the GOP Seek to Silence American Muslims?

Ahmed Rehab

Posted Apr 6, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Why Does the GOP Seek to Silence American Muslims?

By Ahmed Rehab

Ahmed Rehab argues that America is facing a battle between proponents of dialogue and those who wish to stifle dialogue and replace it with Islamophobic fear-mongering.


Is it possible for Muslim Americans to criticize our administration’s neoconservative foreign policies, our government’s complicit role in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, or our violations of civil liberties, and not be branded as “apologists for terror”?

Since the 9/11 attacks, anti-Muslim hysteria has evolved from a collective knee-jerk reaction to a coordinated cottage industry of agenda-driven extremists.

Baseless suspicion of Muslims - not actual wrongdoing - is now apparently sufficient to demand that certain Americans be stripped of the right to speak freely in our nation’s beacon of democracy and pluralism, the U.S. Capitol building.

Such was the demand made of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by members of the GOP after it was “revealed” that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) would host an educational panel on the findings of international public opinion polls.

Sound the alarm, the Muslims are coming.

While there has been a lot of media buzz about the controversy, one obvious question has yet to be asked: what is an “apologist for terror”?

This loaded designation, leveled at CAIR by some in the GOP at the behest of no more than an amateur blogger from Florida, is designed to withstand quantification, or any form of objective assessment, and therefore be beyond contention.

If CAIR’s consistent condemnations of terrorism and the coordination of a national fatwa against all forms of terror and religious extremism is not enough to debunk that subjective designation, then what is? Is endorsing the hawkish policies of this administration or the oppressive treatment of the Palestinians by the state of Israel the only option for political redemption?

It used to be that objective standards - otherwise known as the laws of the land - were trusted to separate “the good” from “the bad” (more scientifically classified as “legal” and “illegal”).

Within the realm of civilized pluralistic democracies - where CAIR fits comfortably - there ought to be respect for alternative viewpoints that challenge traditional power centers via the spoken and written word. The added hope is, of course, that the challenger would not suffer vindictive retribution in the form of smear campaigns.

Uncensored, free debate should be honored, not repressed and muffled only to be replaced with a classification system that permits some to speak and orders others to keep silent.

Beating a law-abiding, law-promoting Muslim American organization with the “terror stick” simply because it questions certain foreign and domestic policies is an affront to the very foundations of American democracy and an insult to all Americans.

The moment we allow our fears to overpower our common sense and our common law is the moment extremists win. Our laws, not our whims and suspicions, must be the ultimate arbitrator in our social contract.

At what point did the GOP decide to surrender the rights of American Muslims to self-serving Internet bloggers?

It is shameful that some in the Republican Party seek to exploit the apparent susceptibility of many of our fellow citizens to believe anything negative about Muslims and their representative organizations in order to score a political point against a rival party.

It is high time the polarizing tactics of fear-mongering and identity politics are erased from our political handbooks.

Now more than ever, Americans need to be free to speak and free to be heard. Since Republicans regularly use “freedom” as a buzzword, we must remind them that freedom is not spelled “feardom.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the false attacks on CAIR’s mission and history may
visit: http://www.cair.com/urbanlegends.pdf,
http://www.cair.com/whattheysayaboutcair.asp, or http://www.cair.com/factsaboutcair.asp

Ahmed Rehab is executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties group.