Fear and Loathing: the GOP and Muslims in America

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A moderate Muslim returns the favor, calling on moderate Republicans to take back the Grand Old Party from extremist hijackers. Will moderate GOP members speak up and take the party back?

Campaign 2012 is heating up, even though we are still only in Primary Season, with no Republican (“GOP”) candidate emerging as a leader. Potential candidates for the US Presidency, for Congressional seats, and for local positions are battling it out for various constituencies. With elections turning on smaller and smaller margins, every vote counts.

Where do American Muslims fit?

We are a small voting bloc (between 2-3 million), if we can be called a “bloc.” We don’t all vote as one. For one thing, we are more racially and ethnically diverse than any other faith community in the USA.

Some of our national institutions claim to deliver our vote, but I don’t think they do.

They may, however (if they’re smart), reflect the general mood and attitudes that many Muslim Americans hold. And there have been some pretty dramatic shifts:

The GOP has lost most Muslims (for now).

Muslims could have been a natural fit for the GOP, a loyal base. Many are conservative, with strong family values: family cohesiveness and identity is highly prized and valued within many cultures in which Islam is found, as is respect for private property, individual endeavor, and personal responsibility.

Almost two-thirds of American Muslims are immigrants or descendants of recent immigrants, as opposed to the 35% of Muslims who are Black Americans and who have a history of forced migration to these shores.

Within this context of racial and ethnic diversity, for Muslims with a history of recent and voluntary immigration, the USA is often seen as a land of opportunity, and many can be swayed by the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” slogans of the GOP.

But the GOP of today also peddles hate and divisiveness for political gain, and these are decidedly un-Islamic values. Muslims have felt the brunt of these tactics, and look at the GOP with a dawning awareness that the GOP does not mobilize hate just against Muslims.

It targets Blacks this way, maneuvering to strip minorities and poor people of voting rights.

It popularizes anti-immigrant attacks that lead to the inhumane treatment of pregnant women, who may or may not be authorized immigrants.

It fights against gays’ equal rights to marry and seeks to pit racial minorities against gays strategically, and when the GOP or its proxies are asked to cease their derogatory speech, they whine that they are victims of bullying—while it is gay kids in schools who actually are getting beat up and bullied.

That’s saying nothing of the GOP War on Women (who thought that strategy up? I understand the reprehensible short-term calculations behind picking on racial minorities, immigrants, the poor, and gays—but women? When everyone has a mother? Not a smart move.).

As a Muslim, I look at more than who peddles hate and targets me individually: I look at broader issues of justice and equity for all. A Party that engages in such vile strategy does not deserve anyone’s support.

As a Progressive Muslim, I am committed to compassion, justice, equality and equity, as well being concerned for and having solidarity with fellow human beings across differences of class, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ability, etc.

These are basic Islamic values and I know other Muslims can be reached on this basis. These are the reasons so many Muslims are overwhelmingly unhappy with the GOP of today.

Yet some Muslims remain Republican, or act as the GOP’s patsy or co-conspirator, happy to trot out Islamophobic tripe for the likes of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), when these folks need a screen from behind which to poison us all with their noxious politics of fear and loathing, issuing false warnings of the “Islamization” of America and how “radical Islam” is set to take over America.

I do not deny there are extremists within Islamic communities. On the contrary, I denounce them. As do the overwhelming majority of Muslims, more so in America than anywhere else.

But we are tired of having that tiny minority used to define all of us.

It’s as if I said Pat Robertson and Kirk Cameron represent all Christians.

Can that be it?

Do Pat Robertson and Kirk Cameron represent so many Christians in the USA that American Christians naturally think an equivalent close-mindedness and hatefulness is to be found among average Muslim Americans?

Is that it?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, because it’s not the case (just as I don’t really believe most Americans stand by Robertson & Cameron’s hateful attitudes towards their LGBT brothers and sisters).

Perhaps we should thank the GOP for having offered such a steady surfeit of fear and loathing that, as with other forms of extremism, we are seeing a backlash and an awakening.

More and more Americans, not just Muslim Americans, are waking up, and it’s not because we smell coffee, but rather something much more malodorous.

We don’t want leaders who only know how to divide us and make us fear each other.

We want someone who will give us hope.

When the GOP knows how to get back to giving us hope—and not PR or spin, a facsimile of hope, but actual, real hope, with substance and policy to back it up—maybe they will win some of us back.

First, they must cease and desist with their hatemongering.

And yes, they sell hate just as fishmongers sell fish.

They seek to profit from it. But their hate is more than two days old. And it has long since started to stink.

 

 

Further reading:

http://www.gallup.com/se/148805/Muslim-Americans-Faith-Freedom-Future.aspx

http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/2624.html?state=research&type=research

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