Several debate participants have history of promoting anti-Muslim bias
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/13/11) — The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT*), a national coalition of major Muslim organizations, today called on Republican presidential candidates to repudiate growing Islamophobia in American society during tonight’s GOP debate in New Hampshire.”
In a statement, AMT said: “We call on all the participants in tonight’s GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire to state clearly that they will not promote or exploit growing anti-Muslim sentiment to gain political advantage. While appealing to fear and religious intolerance may score some cheap political points with a vocal minority in American society, our nation and its values of diversity and inclusion are harmed in the process. “American Muslims deserve the same rights and respect as other citizens.”
AMT says several of those taking part in tonight’s debate hold Islamophobic views or promote unconstitutional measures targeting American Muslims. For example:
• Herman Cain first said he would not appoint a Muslim to a cabinet position, but later modified that stance by calling for an unconstitutional “loyalty” oath for Muslim appointees.
• Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum calls Sharia, or Islamic principles, “an existential threat” to America. In a “lecture on Islam,” Santorum falsely claimed the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, was written in “Islamic.”
• Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has suggested a federal anti-Sharia law. He also said: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they [his grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists. …” Gingrich once issued a statement calling for a ban on all mosques near Ground Zero “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”
• In response to a 2005 debate question about French Muslims, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said: “Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.”
• Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty touted his cancellation of a Minnesota agency’s Sharia-compliant mortgage program designed to help Muslim homebuyers.
• Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said in 2007 that he would not consider Muslims for cabinet posts. Romney stated: “. …based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.” (Romney later disputed the accuracy of that quote.)
A local imam in Dearborn, Michigan was killed by FBI agents. Luqman Ameen Abdullah 53, died in a shootout in the raid of a warehouse just outside the city, in Dearborn, where he stored goods. The raid was one of three in which federal agents said were intended to arrest Mr. Abdullah and 10 other men on charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods, mail fraud and illegal possession of firearms. But the authorities said Mr. Abdullah, who had a lengthy criminal record and was forbidden to have a firearm, opened fire on the agents.
“I’m comfortable with what our agents did,” said Andrew G. Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit division of the F.B.I. “They did what they had to do to protect themselves.”
Abdullah’s mosque has defended itself against allegations that he was part of a radical group with an anti-government ideology.
American Muslim organizations hold mixed opinions on the imam and the incident.
While the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Los Angeles and The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) are both calling for an investigation of the killing, describing it as “deeply disturbing,” the Islamic Center of America (an interfaith outreach project in the Midwest) is critical of the imam and his supporters.
US President Barack Obama is winning praise from many Muslims across the Middle East, United States, and elsewhere for his outreach to their religion and its people. For the Islamic world, Obama’s comments are like “a fresh breeze” and are ushering in a new wave of optimism concerning US-Muslim relations.
In his visit to Turkey, Obama committed that the US will never be at war with Islam, and mentioned that he has Muslims in his own family. A town-hall style meeting in Istanbul also stood as a strong symbol, as Obama answered questions from university students; to some it sent a message that he is open to engaging with Muslims – a dramatically different perspective that many felt during the Bush administration.
In the United States, the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a coalition of major national Islamic organizations, applauded President Obama’s address to the Turkish parliament: “We applaud President Obama’s remarks and hope that they are a sign of improved relations between America and the Muslim world. In his speech, President Obama rightly said that the United States ‘is not and will never be at war with Islam.’ This is a position that needs restating at every opportunity. We also agree with the president’s statement that better relations with the Muslim world are vital in ‘rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject.’ We appreciate that the president noted the contributions of American Muslims and recognized that many Americans ‘have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country.’”
At a briefing held in Washington DC, AMT representatives also called on President Obama to address domestic issues such as addressing the issue of Islamophobia in the United States, the deteriorating relationship between the FBI and Muslim Americans, and Justice Department guidelines concerning profiling.
Overall, the President’s trip to Turkey and address to Muslims has been widely applauded by Muslim communities both in the US and abroad.
The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a coalition of major national Islamic organizations, will hold a briefing to discuss President Obama’s visit to Turkey and how his visit relates to the issues of: the rise of Islamophobia in the US, deteriorating relations between the FBI and American Muslims, the dissemination of inaccurate and agenda-driven information by DHS-recognized “fusion centers,” and Muslims’ concerns about new Justice Department guidelines that allow ethnicity and race to be factors in opening an FBI probe. The press conference will take place on Monday, April 6th at noon, in Washington DC.
AMT chairperson Agha Saeed stated that “While it is vitally important for President Obama to reach out to the Muslim world, it is equally important that he address serious concerns American Muslims have about domestic policies that negatively impact civil liberties and seem to reflect the growth of Islamophobic attitudes in our nation.”