Obama presses for urgent action on immigration during meeting with faith leaders

WASHINGTON — Projecting urgency, President Barack Obama said Friday he wants the Senate to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in the next three months, though he is willing to be patient if that timeline slips slightly.

Obama spoke during a meeting with faith leaders, an increasingly powerful part of the coalition seeking to overhaul the nation’s patchwork immigration laws. The private meeting occurred as the White House tries to show it is focused on more than just fiscal issues following Washington’s inability to avert billions in budget cuts and a looming deadline for keeping the government running.

Immigration shot to the forefront of Washington’s agenda — both for Obama and some Republicans — following the November election. Hispanic voters made up 10 percent of the electorate and Obama carried more than two-thirds of their voters, raising concerns among Republicans about their ability to appeal to the increasingly powerful voting bloc.

Overhauling immigration laws is also a top priority for the fast-growing number of Asians in the U.S., who also voted overwhelmingly for Obama but make up a far smaller percentage of the electorate — 3 percent, according to exit polls from the November election.

Among the 14 participants in the meeting were representatives of the Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Mormon faiths.

 

GOP Asked to Reach Out to Muslim Voters, Reject Anti-Islam Bias

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/5/12) — A coalition of 11 major American Muslim organizations today called on the Republican Party to reach out to Muslim voters by rejecting anti-Islam bias and discriminatory legislation.
At a noon news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the coalition announced the publication of a full-page advertisement in the conservative Washington Times newspaper outlining recent examples of intolerant speech and actions by Republicans and offering recommendations to help improve GOP relations with the Muslim community.
That open letter to the GOP states in part:
“We are writing to offer an open invitation to reassess your party’s current relationship with American Muslims. As with other demographics, American Muslim support for Republicans has dropped precipitously in recent years. This shift away from the GOP is not set in stone, but its future direction is dependent on choices your party makes.”
Recommendations for GOP leaders outlined in the open letter include:
 The party establishment should speak out strongly against biased speech within its ranks.
 The party should make a concerted effort to engage Muslim voters.
 The party establishment should oppose efforts to pass discriminatory legislation.
 The party establishment should reject any member’s effort to use official public forums to smear a minority.
 Party officials should end the persistent witch-hunt targeting legally operating Muslim institutions.
The coalition’s letter concludes by stating:
“Let us all work together to maintain America’s leadership in support of emerging democracies and the rule of law worldwide by promoting the humanitarian principles enshrined in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. May God Almighty bless the United States of America.”

Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress

The newly elected, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.

Catholics have seen the biggest gains among the 530 seats in the new Congress that have been decided as of Nov. 16. So far, Catholics have picked up five seats, for a total of 161, raising their share to just over 30%.1 The biggest decline is among Jews, who have been elected to 32 seats (6%), seven fewer than in the 112th Congress, where Jews held 39 seats (7%).2 Mormons continue to hold 15 seats (about 3%), the same as in the previous Congress.

Protestants also appear likely to continue to occupy about the same proportion of seats (56%) as in the 112th Congress (57%). In addition, the Protestant share of each political party in the new Congress is about the same as in the 112th; roughly seven-in-ten Republicans are Protestants, compared with fewer than half of Democrats. However, the members elected for the first time in 2012 are less Protestant than the group first elected in 2010; 48% are Protestant, compared with 59% of those elected for the first time in 2010.

Protestants, Catholics and Jews each make up a greater percentage of the members of Congress than of all U.S. adults. The same is true for some sub-groups of Protestants, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians. By contrast, Pentecostals are a much smaller percentage of Congress than of the general public. Due in part to electoral gains in recent years, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus now are represented in Congress in closer proportion to their numbers in the U.S. adult population. But some small religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not represented at all in Congress.

Perhaps the greatest disparity, however, is between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who do not identify with any particular religion. About one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – a group sometimes collectively called the “nones.” But only one member of the new Congress, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is religiously unaffiliated, according to information gathered by CQ Roll Call. Sinema is the first member of Congress to publicly describe her religion as “none,” though 10 other members of the 113th Congress (about 2%) do not specify a religious affiliation, up from six members (about 1%) of the previous Congress.3 This is about the same as the percentage of U.S. adults in Pew Research Center surveys who say that they don’t know, or refuse to specify, their faith (about 2%).

President Obama’s Iowa campaign headquarters vandalized with ‘Muslim Lier’ sign

President Barack Obama’s campaign building in Des Moines, Iowa, was vandalized with the words “Muslim Lier” (intended to be “Liar”), spray-painted on a large banner.

The word “liar” was misspelled on the sign, officers said.

The blue banner is 16 by 8 feet and hangs on the south side of the building at 2307 Hubbell Ave. The words were written with red spray paint, police said.

The vandalism occurred sometime between 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday, when it was discovered, police reports show.  The same message was reportedly spray painted near the Iowa State Fairgrounds earlier in the week.  The damage was estimated at $500.

Dating back to his 2008 campaign, a faction of Americans have falsely believed that Obama is a Muslim, even though he has openly discussed his Christian faith. According to a poll released in July, 30 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of conservative Republicans identified the president as a Muslim.

A request for comment was not immediately returned by the Obama campaign’s Iowa office.

Ark. GOP calls statements by 2 Republican candidates about Muslims, blacks ‘offensive’

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Republicans tried to distance themselves Saturday from a Republican state representative’s assertion that slavery was a “blessing in disguise” and a Republican state House candidate who advocates deporting all Muslims.

The claims were made in books written, respectively, by Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro and House candidate Charlie Fuqua of Batesville. Those books received attention on Internet news sites Friday.

On Saturday, state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb called the books “highly offensive.” And U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican who represents northeast Arkansas, called the writings “divisive and racially inflammatory.”

Hubbard wrote in his 2009 self-published book, “Letters To The Editor: Confessions Of A Frustrated Conservative,” that “the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise.” He also wrote that African-Americans were better off than they would have been had they not been captured and shipped to the United States.

Fuqua, who served in the Arkansas House from 1996 to 1998, wrote there is “no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States,” in his 2012 book, titled “God’s Law.”

Muslim delegates at Democratic convention quadrupled since 2004

The number of Muslim delegates attending the Democratic National Convention has quadrupled since 2004, according to a Muslim advocacy group.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations counts more than 100 Muslim delegates representing some 20 states at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week. That’s up from 25 delegates in 2004, according to CAIR.

CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said the numbers were “a sign of the American Muslim community’s growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party.” He also said that Democrats had targeted outreach to American Muslims.

A “handful” of Muslims were delegates at the Republic National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., McGraw said. Campaign officials for Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama’s GOP challenger, did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats invited a Muslim cleric to deliver a blessing during their conventions, even as Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders received invitations.

Most Muslim Americans voted Republican through the 2000 presidential election, but switched allegiances after the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 security policies, which some Muslims believe unfairly target their community. And while former President George W. Bush called Islam a “religion of peace,” some conservative Republicans now push for state laws to ban Shariah, Islamic law. The national GOP platform approved last week declares that U.S. courts should not consider foreign laws in their decisions.

Op ED: Not all Republicans are Islamophobes but all Islamophobes are Republicans

The straw man of the famous post-Sept. 11 slogan, “Not every Muslim is a terrorist but every terrorist is a Muslim” was debunked by a 2005 FBI report.

It showed that only 6 percent of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005 were carried out by extremists calling themselves Muslims. But one group has sustained the Islamophobic rhetoric, nonetheless.

So I wonder if Muslims would rally outside the Republican National Convention this week carrying a banner stating, “Not all Republicans are Islamophobes but all Islamophobes are Republicans.” Trust me. The data supports it.

A new poll conducted by the Arab American Institute asked the attitudes of voters, analyzed along party lines, towards different religious groups, including Arabs and Muslims. Overall, 57 percent of the Republican voters viewed all Muslims unfavorably in comparison to 29 percent of Democrats who expressed a similar opinion. When it came to American Muslims, 47 percent of Republicans, in contrast with 23 percent of Democrats, held an unfavorable view.

Islamophobia in America is not innate, rather it’s the fruit of a decade-long hysteria against Muslims generated by a largely Republican machine comprised of pundits, conservative funders, media conglomerates and fiery politicians.

You can’t help but wonder: Why is it that nearly all Islamophobes are Republicans?

Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years

Trends in American Values: 1987-2012

Overview: As Americans head to the polls this November, their values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. Unlike in 1987, when this series of surveys began, the values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than gender, age, race or class divides.

Overall, there has been much more stability than change across the 48 political values measures that the Pew Research Center has tracked since 1987. But the average partisan gap has nearly doubled over this 25-year period – from 10 percentage points in 1987 to 18 percentage points in the new study.

Nearly all of the increases have occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During this period, both parties’ bases have often been critical of their parties for not standing up for their traditional positions. Currently, 71% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats say their parties have not done a good job in this regard.

More See “Too Much” Religious Talk by Politicians

A new survey finds signs of public uneasiness with the mixing of religion and politics. The number of people who say there has been too much religious talk by political leaders stands at an all-time high since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago. And most Americans continue to say that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics.

Nearly four-in-ten Americans (38%) now say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders, while 30% say there has been too little. In 2010, more said there was too little than too much religious expression from politicians (37% vs. 29%). The percentage saying there is too much expression of religious faith by politicians has increased across party lines, but this view remains far more widespread among Democrats than Republicans.

Poll: Obama’s a Muslim to many GOP voters in Alabama, Mississippi

After years of battling false claims and viral emails alleging that he is a Muslim, President Obama hasn’t gotten far among Republican voters in Alabama and Mississippi – about half still believe he is Muslim and about 1 in 4 believes his parents’ interracial marriage should have been illegal, a new poll shows. Of the republicans surveyed only 14 percent know that he’s actually a Christian. In Mississippi, the same poll showed that a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, believe the Muslim lie.

While there’s no question that far too many people buy into this propaganda, I’m not ready to condemn a majority of Mississippians based on this survey. PPP is a partisan organization that conducts automated surveys. That means it’s not clear who answered the questions and whether the sample is statistically representative.

The automated survey by Public Policy Polling, conducted over the weekend in advance of Tuesday’s GOP primaries in both states, showed Republicans Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich locked in a three-way battle for votes.

But in an indication of where the two states fall on the political spectrum, the polls also found continued skepticism among Republicans about Obama’s religion and that a substantial number of GOP voters continue to believe interracial marriage should be illegal.

The poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 52% said they believed Obama is a Muslim, 36% weren’t sure and only 12% said they believed he is a Christian. He fared slightly better in Alabama, where 45% said he is a Muslim, 41% weren’t sure, and 14% said he is a Christian.