Friday, 11.09.2012, 06:39pm
Several candidates for Congressional elections known for making anti-Islam statements were defeated during this week’s election, much to the delight of American Muslims and tolerant U.S. residents in general who have grown tired of the unwelcoming climate.
“These encouraging results clearly show that mainstream Americans reject anti-Muslim bigotry by candidates for public office and will demonstrate that rejection at the polls,” Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, according to the website OnIslam.net.
Candidates known for their hostile, ignorant rhetoric were defeated in several states, another win for tolerance coming off of the failed campaigns of similar presidential candidates such as Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum.
Imagine a political movement created in a moment of terrible anxiety, its origins shrouded in a peculiar combination of manipulation and grass-roots mobilization, its ranks dominated by Christian conservatives and self-proclaimed patriots, its agenda driven by its members’ fervent embrace of nationalism, nativism and moral regeneration, with more than a whiff of racism wafting through it.
The Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, they called it. And for a few years it burned across the nation, a fearsome thing to behold. In “One Hundred Percent American,” Thomas R. Pegram, a professor of history at Loyola University Maryland, traces the Invisible Empire’s meteoric rise and equally precipitous fall. The ’20s Klan was born, he explains — or more precisely was reborn — on Thanksgiving evening 1915, when 16 Southerners trooped up Stone Mountain, in Georgia, for a bit of ritual bunkum inspired by D. W. Griffith’s incendiary film “The Birth of a Nation.”
At the end of the book, though, Baker steps back from her texts. Suddenly her analysis becomes more pointed. Yes, the Klan had a very short life. But it has to be understood, she contends, as of a piece with other moments of fevered religious nationalism, from the anti-Catholic riots of the antebellum era to modern anti-Islam bigots. Indeed, earlier this year, Herman Cain declared that he wouldn’t be comfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet. It’s tempting to see those moments as Pegram does the Klan: desperate, even pitiful attempts to stop the inevitable broadening of American society. But Baker seems closer to the mark when she says that there’s a dark strain of bigotry and exclusion running through the national experience. Sometimes it seems to weaken. And sometimes it spreads, as anyone who reads today’s papers knows, fed by our fears and our hatreds.
In an interview with GQ, Herman Cain goes back to an early theme of his campaign: suggesting American Muslims pose a creeping threat to society. From the transcript:
Devin Gordon: Do you think that there is a greater tendency among the Muslim faith for that kind of extremism?
Herman Cain: That would be a judgment call that I’m probably not qualified to make, because I can’t speak on behalf of the entire Muslim community. I have talked with Muslims that are peaceful Muslims. And I have had one very well known Muslim voice say to me directly that a majority of Muslims share the extremist views.
Devin Gordon: Do you think he’s right?
Herman Cain: Yes, because that’s his community. That’s his community. I can’t tell you his name, but he is a very prominent voice in the Muslim community, and he said that.
Moreover, Cain does immense damage to those focused on a narrow, discrete problem: The radicalization of some Muslims in the United States. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has enough problems beating down the allegations of discrimination and trying to conduct a thoughtful inquiry into how we can intercede in the process of radicalization. King and others trying to cultivate useful strategies against jihadist elements are undermined — and will inevitably be lumped in — with Cain’s know-nothing attacks on all Muslim Americans.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted what it said was a Republican “obsession” with Muslims.
An NJDC statement termed as “utterly unnecessary” a second hearing convened Wednesday by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Commitee, on Muslim radicalization.
“Taken together with examples such as Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and Herman Cain’s deeply disturbing comments in Monday night’s debate, these hearings are a manifestation of an upsetting GOP obsession with American Muslims,” the statement said.
In the GOP presidential debate Monday, Gingrich defended proposed loyalty tests for Muslims by likening them to past loyalty tests aimed at ferreting out communists and Nazis. Cain attempted to explain past comments in which he said he would not be comfortable with including a Muslim in his Cabinet.
“Once again, King has singled out the adherents of the Muslim faith, calling into question the loyalty of an entire community,” NJDC said. “All Americans who treasure the freedom of religion should be concerned with the growing suspicion of Muslim Americans by the Republican Party, which seems to be a requirement among its 2012 contenders.”
Republicans pointed out that King’s hearing Wednesday focused specifically on Muslim radicalization among prisoners, a topic that congressional Democrats have addressed in the past.
It’s not just Herman Cain…
As you may have heard, Cain, the longshot GOP presidential candidate, told Think Progress last week that if elected president, he would not consider any federal appointments of Muslims. Cain explained: “There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.”
This wasn’t Cain simply being entrapped by a wily questioner. Cain had expressed similar anti-Muslim sentiments in an interview with Christianity Today a few days earlier.
Appealing to your base’s id is a tried-and-true method dark horse candidates use to garner attention. This is why Donald Trump has spent the last couple of weeks expressing doubts about the president’s birthplace. But frank expressions of anti-Muslim animus are also coming from mainstream GOP contenders.
All of this makes it fair to ask whether some of this anti-Muslim sentiment reflects opposition to Obama generally, and whether dislike for Obama, combined with the mistaken belief that he is a Muslim, has actually contributed to the mainstreaming of Islamophobic conspiracy theories on the right. If so, pandering to Islamophobia may be an easy way for a Republican candidate to communicate his or political instincts to the base, and thus may become an enduring and unalterable feature of the 2012 presidential race that will only intensify as the campaign develops.