ISSN 2330-717X

Overcoming Islamophobia In US Elections – OpEd

By

By Muqtedar Khan

Islam has become an important part of American discourse leading up to the 2012 federal elections and candidates everywhere appear eager to take a position on Islam for political gain. Across the country, rising Islamophobia has made it difficult for some Muslims to build mosques and practice their faith, although their right to do so is enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

In the current race for the presidential nomination, some presidential candidates are invoking Islam and Muslims in a negative fashion in an attempt to bolster their popularity with populations they perceive to be suspicious of Muslims or Islam. For example, if elected, former presidential candidate Herman Cain promised not to appoint Muslims to his cabinet.

This is representative of recent trends. In 2010, some Republican Congressional candidates used the proposed Park 51 Muslim community centre, famously branded as the “ground-zero mosque”, and fear of sharia, the principles from which Islamic law is derived, to rally voters to their cause. And elected Congressional leaders, such as Peter King (R-NY), have used their committee appointments to argue that American Muslims are deeply radicalised, a fact repeatedly debunked by several surveys and reports.

However, there are others within the Republican Party who eschew this rhetoric, such as presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, as well as others like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who appointed American Muslim Sohail Mohammed as a state judge despite much opposition.

Individual tolerance or fear of different groups is not confined to political elites. A September 2011 study conducted by two think tanks, Brookings Institution and Public Religion Research Institute, found that over 47 per cent of Americans say Islam and American values are incompatible and similar numbers express discomfort with Islam in America.

Many events have combined to create distaste for Islam and Muslims in the minds of some Americans: the attacks of 11 September 2001, the resultant decade long “war on terror” involving American military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, several attempted terrorist attacks by Muslims in America and negative coverage of political and social events in the Muslim world. The present manifestations of Islamophobia are the consequences of a very complex sequence of events and narratives emerging as a result of those events.

Yet rather than resorting to Muslim-bashing, American leaders should show their potential to lead by taking on the more difficult task of combating intolerance. After all, this country was founded on the ideals of religious tolerance, pluralism and democratic freedom.

It is not difficult to make the case that American Muslims are well integrated and a positive asset to the nation. A major study published by the research and polling organisation Gallup in August 2011 shows that American Muslims are well integrated and loyal citizens. Indeed, it also shows that Islamophobia is not impacting the economic well-being of most American Muslims.

I understand why some 2012 presidential candidates are succumbing to the temptation of exploiting intolerance since negative attitudes towards Islam among Republicans are higher than the national trend, according to the September 2011 Brookings poll. But this is also an opportunity for these candidates to demonstrate that they are truly presidential, that they understand the spirit of the US Constitution and that they are determined to uphold it in spite of what campaign strategists might recommend.

Presidential candidates need not play to the lowest common denominator. Many non-Muslim political and religious leaders, both laity and clergy, have in recent years engaged in systematic interfaith dialogue with Muslims. Many of them have stood up for their Muslim friends and for American Muslims in general when Islamophobic incidents have taken place, usually in the form of opposition to mosque building or false accusations against Muslim leaders.

The conservative ranks are packed with sensible leaders, such as Governor Christie and evangelical Christian pastor Rick Warren, who have successfully reached out to American Muslims. Warren, who leads a large church in southern California, spoke at The Islamic Society of North America’s annual conference in July 2011, despite receiving criticism for his appearance. At the conference, Warren called for Muslims and Christians to work together.

Republican candidates should draw on these leaders and their expertise. By showing presidential leadership in combating intolerance the result would ultimately be good for these candidates’ campaigns, as well as for the general inter-religious environment in the country.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. His website is www.ijtihad.org.

Click here to have Eurasia Review's newsletter delivered via RSS, as an email newsletter, via mobile or on your personal news page.

CGNews

As an initiative of the international conflict transformation organization Search for Common Ground, CGNews welcomes all stakeholders to share their perspectives on key issues affecting Muslim-Western relations and on race relations in the United States. CGNews - Common Ground News - aims to present constructive ideas, provide solutions, humanize the other, offer hope and/or shed light on a variety of issue

One thought on “Overcoming Islamophobia In US Elections – OpEd

  • February 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm
    Permalink

    “…and negative coverage of political and social events in the Muslim world.”

    “Yet rather than resorting to Muslim-bashing, American leaders should show their potential to lead by taking on the more difficult task of combating intolerance. After all, this country was founded on the ideals of religious tolerance, pluralism and democratic freedom.”

    “..Many of them have stood up for their Muslim friends and for American Muslims in general when Islamophobic incidents have taken place, usually in the form of opposition to mosque building or false accusations against Muslim leaders.”

    “Republican candidates should draw on these leaders and their expertise. By showing presidential leadership in combating intolerance the result would ultimately be good for these candidates’ campaigns, as well as for the general inter-religious environment in the country.”

    I have posted clips from the above post which are pure shedding of tears for islamophobia; as the author, learned as he is undoubtedly, is trying to hammer his point hard, perhaps forgets
    that as the Rome was not built in a day; same way the Islamophobia as per his version perhaps is built overnight.

    The US elections are on the heels and so is the date of withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan
    especially in the light of Obama preponing the withdrawal in Af an year before. This is an immediate effect of Islamo-whatever it is. It is so hard to avoid the authors word without adequately addressing the issue.

    Hence with my due respect and apologies to the author, I should kindly be permitted to attempt to do the justice to this nostalgic problem. Let me start by first asking or begging a question? OK we buy the authors plea, “Who could one hold responsible for it”? Can the Muslim community sincerely answer this genuine question which I am sure, everybody concerned would like to seek an answer to before it can be satisfactorily redressed?

    If again with my due respect and diligence, the responsibility must rest with the Muslim community itself. They are the one’s selves who are singularly irresponsible and have been and are still terrorising the world including the US itself. They are so volatile, if there is no fear of reprisals, they will react and be demanding beyond expectation from their hosts, that is inconceivable.

    I cannot quote their last even five century history, if not the fourteen hundred old, but the chronological gory history is a proof enough
    including the recent events that hardly finds a plausible excuse for the tears. I shall not use very hard words but the Islamic psyche is well known to stupify the rest of the global society.

    They or someone may shoot back with grenades against the US. OK. But who is needing more, US or Muslims? Then who needs to be more tolerant? I am not exonerating or taking sides of US or any other nation. But this question has to be answered by the global Muslim community itself.

    The entire Muslim world is on the streets and there is summer or spring, may be anybody’s guess; however the situation doesn’t instill confidence for the social goodwill.

    Lastly can the US Muslims be separated from the Muslims in the rest of the world? Again the answer is no. Will the Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa become queit or their conduct can be ignored? These are again pertinent stark realities, which the Muslim community has to contemplate. Shedding tears like a rainy frog seasonally and conducting themselves perilously round the year and in the rest of the world with impunity will not pay dividends.

    I may not have sounded very favourable but I only spoke sweet talks, I perhaps would have done more harm than good to the Muslim community. Hence it is time to swallow bitter pills than advancing apologism. With no malice but as a well wisher, it must be inviting some soul searching. Jihad, fatwas, Islamism, zizya, hatred towards the non believers where they can get away and tolerance at other places selectively doesn’t brood confidence and harmony.

    Again the whole world is passing through a period of global unrest and psychological holocaust which must be addressed urgently if the civilisation has to survive. God bless

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.