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Islamophobia and the Election: It’s not just Trump

US Politics
on 13 Comments

The perpetual election season is in full-swing, as we are now past Iowa and New Hampshire.  With November seemingly around the corner, the GOP candidates have honed in on cultivating Islamophobia as a sound strategy for drumming up their base.

While the media focuses on the demagoguery of Donald Trump, the war-mongering of Ted Cruz and the sheer-unhinged nature of Ben Carson – the reality is that even “moderate” candidates, such as Marco Rubio are riding a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, in order to seem tough on national security.

Global Islamophobia continues to reach its crescendo, with anti-refugee and thereby anti-Muslim sentiment spreading like wildfire across Europe.  This rhetoric has also continued to grow in the U.S. – with record numbers of Islamophobic incidents reported in 2015 against mosques.  For American Muslims, it is now almost 15 years post-9/11 – yet the question remains on whether the continual scapegoating and marginalization of this community within the political sphere will ever end.

Obama’s Mosque Speech

Last week, President Obama finally visited a mosque – the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and gave a speech addressing the undeniable rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.  Now I have been critical of POTUS’ notable absence from U.S. mosques for some time, as have been many inside and outside the Muslim community.  Additionally, it is impossible to overlook his administration’s use of drones, support for Israeli aggression against civilian populations, as well as its continual framing of terror to be a Muslim-centric issue.

At the same time, it is also undeniable that Obama’s speech at the mosque did hold major importance for American Muslims.  In the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric has risen globally, to what some are saying is an all-time high.  Since San Bernardino alone, the number of hate-crimes stemming from Islamophobia has numbered over two dozen, in the U.S. alone.  This includes violent attacks against Muslims and Sikhs, as well as arsons at mosques and multiple cases of vandalism at Muslim institutions.  

What we don’t see amongst these statistics and news reports is the immense damage that has been done to the psyche of Muslims living in the West.  Lost in all these numbers is the impact the venomous rhetoric is having upon everyday Muslims.  This includes harassment, profiling, dirty looks, or just overall bigoted sentiment that is permeating society at the moment.  For example, in a New Hampshire Primary exit poll, 2/3 of GOP respondents believe Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S.  

So while there were some inherent flaws with Obama’s speech – most American Muslims viewed this, at the very least – as being a little relief and validation during a time of heightened tension.  The spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric has been an extension of Obama’s very existence in the most powerful position in the land.  Since his election, hate group membership has spiked, along with “birther” and “creeping sharia” narratives permeating the political discourse.  The perception amongst many American Muslims has been that Obama has been evasive on the issue of Islamophobia, as not to lose political points.

The “Moderate” Candidate Responds

Unsurprisingly, the right-wing met the news of the speech with their usual hyperbole and distortion of facts.  It was expected that staunch neoconservatives and Islamophobia Industry operatives would take this opportunity to sling mud at one of the rare opportunities to depict Muslims in a semi-positive light.  The so-called “moderate” GOP candidate Marco Rubio also saw this as an opening to weigh in, via The Huffington Post:

“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done,” Rubio said at a Wednesday campaign stop in Dover, New Hampshire. “Always pitting people against each other. Always! Look at today: He gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Rubio added: “Of course there’s discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves. They argue that. They’ll tell you that. But again, it’s this constant pitting people against each other. I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.”

The assertion that Islamophobia is a innocuous or non-existant, points to Rubio’s absurd level of ignorance, as well as his penchant for spitting out robot-like talking points, with disregard for actual facts.

In the past 2 months, there have been:

  • Arsons that have destroyed a mosque in Coachella, CA and a Muslim-owned restaurant in North Dakota
  • Mosques that have been vandalized from coast to coast.
  • Individuals who have been physically attacked and sent to the hospital for speaking Arabic or wearing Muslim garb.
  • Multiple attacks against Sikhs and their institutions, for being perceived as “Islamic.”

Add this to the fact that the Presidential candidate with the most face-time (Trump) has proposed banning Muslims from entering the country, or that the 2nd place candidate (Cruz) proposed carpet-bombing Iraq to “make the desert glow.” Previous frontrunner Ben Carson went heavy on the Islamophobic rhetoric early in the race, and was able to raise a massive amount of funds in doing so.

The fact that the leading candidates in the GOP race are succeeding with extremist, and some might even say fascist rhetoric – allows the “establishment” candidates appear to be centrist in nature.  In reality, middle-of-the-road candidates such as Rubio are pushing very extreme, bigoted rhetoric as well.

In November, in response to Trump’s assertion that he would “close down mosques,” – Rubio took it a step further: Close down anywhere Muslims meet:

It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — any place where radicals are being inspired. The bigger problem we have is our inability to find out where these places are, because we’ve crippled our intelligence programs, both through unauthorized disclosures by a traitor, in Edward Snowden, or by some of the things this president has put in place with the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities.

So whatever facility is being used — it’s not just a mosque — any facility that’s being used to radicalize and inspire attacks against the United States, should be a place that we look at.

The initial premise that individuals in the U.S. are being radicalized at mosques simply has no foundation.  In the relatively few cases that have been prosecuted pertaining to ISIS, many have involved FBI informants or have involved online radicalization.  The narrative that is being driven by many politicians and mainstream media outlets however, is that mosques are responsible for radicalization.  Part of the reason that Trump, Cruz, Rubio are advancing this narrative ties into the fact that they’re being advised by one of the Islamophobia Industry’s foremost wingnuts:  Frank Gaffney.  Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy is responsible for advancing conspiracy theories, such as “all Muslims in public-life are Muslim Brotherhood operatives,” and that “80% of America’s mosques are radicalized.”

Even though candidates such as Rubio have been quoted as saying “I value every human life” – he has taken a hardline against taking in Syrian refugees during the largest refugee crisis since World War II.  The fear-mongering around taking in refugees is Islamophobic at its core, as a faulty narrative that there are terrorists among them has now polluted the conversation.  Rubio is also a staunch advocate for keeping Guantanamo Bay open, in a near nod to continuing keeping prisoners (all Muslim) in inhumane conditions.

Vying For Adelson’s Money?

American elections have sadly become a horse-race where candidates vie for the seemingly unlimited stream of funds from the nation’s wealthiest .01%.  In the 2012 election, casino magnate and one of the world’s ten richest people, Sheldon Adelson had an immense impact on the discourse.  Adelson, who is a staunch supporter of Israel, spent $15 million propping up a fringe candidate in Newt Gingrich throughout the election.  In exchange, Gingrich help shift the Republican conversation to the extreme-right when it came to issues such as Israel and Islam.  Even though Gingrich floundered in the polls throughout the race, the influx of Adelson’s money kept him in the game long beyond where he deserved to be.  The tycoon has also famously said “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Islamic” – as well as being a well-known contributor to prominent Islamophobic projects.  The question is, who will he look to in this election cycle to push forth his agenda?

In the 2016 election cycle, many say that Marco Rubio is that guy.  With over $93 million spent during the last election, it’s plausible that Adelson may spend well over $100 million this time around.  This could explain at least partially, why the supposed “moderate” candidate is pushing such extreme rhetoric during the debates.  After the New Hampshire primary, however – his campaign may be in a free-fall. Either way, the amped up rhetoric bodes badly for American Muslims.

The Never-Ending Cycle of Bigotry

As we plod forward to November, Muslim Americans are bracing themselves for what promises to be a campaign season full of unabashed bigotry.  We now live in a time when white supremacist groups are openly making robocalls advocating for Trump, saying “We don’t need Muslims.  We need smart, educated white people.” Ted Cruz, who has openly appeared at Islamophobia Industry events – continues to use the dog-whistle of “let’s call radical Islam by its name” – in order to froth up his extreme base.  Some of them even show up armed, demonstrating with AR-15 assault rifles outside mosques.

This never ending cycle of demagoguery, from extreme right and “centrist” candidates is having an effect on public opinion and is contributing to polarization in the country.  It is the hope of the Muslim community, that elected officials and those in positions of influence continue to call out and denounce this vicious and divisive rhetoric.

Imraan Siddiqi
About Imraan Siddiqi

Imraan Siddiqi is a writer, activist and Executive Director of CAIR-Arizona.  He has been published in a wide variety of outlets on the subject of Islamophobia and American Muslims.  He is also editor of the website HateHurts.net – a project to track Islamophobia and its fallout on multiple communities.  You can follow him on Twitter @imraansiddiqi

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13 Responses

  1. kalithea
    kalithea
    February 10, 2016, 5:53 pm

    First of all, Rubio is not a Moderate by any stretch of the word. If Adelson is eyeing him you can bet there’s a neocon protégé waiting to be anointed with bales of cash.

    All these candidates are going to bring back torture and waterboarding and keep Guantanamo fully occupied and they’ll even build a new wing and we’ll have to endure another chapter of renditions and all that dark Middle Ages crap that comes with it, not to mention new law-dodging inventions like enhanced interrogation. And the police state will be rounding up blacks and Muslims merely for wearing a hoodie or taqiyah.

    Finally, at his New Hampshire primary win celebration rally, Donald Trump’s campaign used John Lennon’s Revolution as the background music for Trump’s win. Did Michael’s children inherit the Beatles’ songbook? Someone has to stop Trump from using John Lennon’s music because poor John is spinning in his grave! Paging Paris, Prince, Blanket and Paul McCartney, come in please!

    IMAGINE John Lennon’s music representing an unapologetic racist? Americans need a wake up call!

    • Rashers2
      Rashers2
      February 13, 2016, 7:05 am

      @kalithea may be right. We saw the racist stereotyping by the police in the UK in the 1970s & `80s – any young Afro-Caribbean, especially, if sporting the “Rasta’ look”, was liable to stop-&-search, arrest, roughing-up, etc; all on suspicion of being, er…. young and black.
      If it materialises in the USA, it will certainly also materialise in Europe, where a xenophobic right is undergoing an alarming renaissance. In the UK, it’s perhaps less overt than e. g. Pegida, Le Front National and their ilk; but equally insidious and fuelled by the MSM; as Lady Warsi (Muslim peeress & former minister) has said, Islamophobia is now acceptable, middle-class dinner party fare in Britain. One way, I suppose, may be to take a leaf out of the Apocrypha concerning King Christian X of Denmark, who allegedly promised that, if Danish Jews were forced to wear the Star of David, he would do the same (the Nazi occupiers didn’t impose this so his resolve was never put to the test). Eccentric it may be and futile it might be but, if a real witch-hunt loomed, I’d don the hatta and thobe to walk around my North London streets, just to demonstrate the stupidity of judging books by their covers!
      @kalithea raises a point which goes way, way beyond I-P and Islamophobia: “All these candidates are going to bring back torture and waterboarding and keep Guantanamo fully occupied and they’ll even build a new wing and we’ll have to endure another chapter of renditions and all that dark Middle Ages crap that comes with it, not to mention new law-dodging inventions like enhanced interrogation.” This is the stuff of nightmares: breakdowns in the Rule of Law don’t start with Joe Street; they start at the top. When governments and the apparatus of the state ignore their own rules and the norms of a civilised society, doing instead as they please in the name of whatever happens to be the current pretext or expediency, Joe sees this and – not unreasonably – asks himself why rules should apply to him when they manifestly don’t apply to those in positions of infinitely greater power and influence. The law slides into popular contempt and Joe decides that, indeed, it doesn’t apply to him either so he follows the politicians’ example of flouting or ignoring it. Almost overnight, the Rule of Law disappears and we wake up from the nightmare into a new Dark Age.

  2. Kay24
    Kay24
    February 10, 2016, 7:56 pm

    The GOP always needs a bogeyman to fear monger and try to win. Since Iran is no more one of the evil empires, they must want to settle on the Muslim issue. They have nothing to run on otherwise. Unfortunately it will be the majority of peaceful American Muslims that will suffer this time.

  3. JWalters
    JWalters
    February 10, 2016, 8:11 pm

    Virtually all this anti-Muslim talk is financed and stoked by Israeli money, foreign and domestic. Just as all the talk of justice for Palestinians is suppressed by Israeli money, foreign and domestic. This is all in plain sight for anyone who takes the time to look. America is living under the tyranny of war profiteers who fan of religious conflict for profit.

    • druid
      druid
      February 11, 2016, 1:16 pm

      Absolutely and well said. I have been following this for 3 decades and have seen it transition with malicious propaganda and wars to cause chaos! Even some Israelis point this out, but this doesn’t get traction in the MSM.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    February 11, 2016, 6:12 am

    That poster behind Rubio in the photo has convinced me that he’s definitely my guy*. I guess I just can’t resist a man who dots the ‘i’ in his name with a graphic in the shape of the U.S. That’s some serious business, y’all!
    I wonder if Rubio got that nifty background from backdropoutlet.com.

    NEW AMERICAN CENTURY

    RENEWED AMERICAN VALUES

    NEW AMERICAN JOBS

    NEW AMERICAN LEADERSHIP

    NEW AMERICAN SECURITY

    RENEWED AMERICAN STRENGTH

    * Mary Wells – My Guy Lyrics (1964 song)

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      February 11, 2016, 6:27 am
    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      February 11, 2016, 5:08 pm

      P.P.S.
      Berry Gordy
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      [EXCERPTS] Berry Gordy, Jr.[2] (born November 28, 1929)[1] is an American record producer and songwriter. He is best known as the founder of the Motown record label and its subsidiaries.

      • Early years
      Berry Gordy, Jr. was born to the middle-class family of Berry Gordy II (also known as Berry Gordy, Sr.), who had relocated to Detroit from Oconee County, Georgia*, in 1922. [2] The first Berry Gordy was the son of a white plantation owner in Georgia and his female slave. Berry Gordy, Sr. was lured to Detroit by the job opportunities for black people offered by the booming automotive businesses.[2] He developed his interest in music by writing songs and opening the 3-D Record Mart, a record store featuring jazz music. The store was unsuccessful, and Gordy sought work at the Lincoln-Mercury plant, but his family connections put him in touch with Al Green (no relation to the singer Al Green), owner of the Flame Show Bar Talent Club, where he met the singer Jackie Wilson.
      In 1957 Wilson recorded “Reet Petite”, a song Gordy had co-written with his sister Gwen and writer-producer Billy Davis. It became a modest hit, but had more success internationally, especially in the UK, where it reached the Top 10 and even later topped the chart on re-issue in 1986. Wilson recorded six more songs co-written by Gordy over the next two years . . .

      • Motown Record Corporation
      Gordy reinvested the profits from his songwriting success into producing. In 1957, he discovered the Miracles (originally known as the Matadors) and began building a portfolio of successful artists. In 1959, with the encouragement of Miracles leader Smokey Robinson, Gordy borrowed $800 from his family to create an R&B record company. Originally, Gordy wanted to name the new label Tammy Records, after the song recorded by Debbie Reynolds. However, that name was taken, and he chose the name Tamla Records. . .
      . . . Berry’s third release was “Bad Girl” by the Miracles, the first release on the Motown record label. “Bad Girl” was a solid hit in 1959 after Chess Records picked it up. Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” initially appeared on Tamla and then charted on Gordy’s sister’s label, Anna Records, in February 1960.
      Tamla and Motown labels were then merged into a new company, Motown Record Corporation, incorporated on April 14, 1960. In 1960, Gordy signed an unknown singer, Mary Wells, who became the fledgling label’s first star, with Smokey Robinson penning her hits “You Beat Me to the Punch”, “Two Lovers”, and “My Guy”. . .

      SOURCE – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berry_Gordy

      * Oconee County, Georgia is just south of Athens and was named for the Oconee River, which was named for the native Oconee, a Muskogean people [i.e., the Muscogee (or Muskogee), also known as the Creek] of central Georgia. The Oconee lived in present-day Baldwin County, Georgia at a settlement known as Oconee Old Town until they were made to vamoose when their land was “ceded” (all quite kosher-like, I can assure you) in 1802 by the Creek Nation in the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson.
      The Oconee name exists in several variations, including Ocone, Oconi, Ocony, and Ekwoni.

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        February 11, 2016, 5:35 pm

        RE: “[T]hey were made to vamoose when their land was ‘ceded’ (all quite kosher-like, I can assure you) in 1802 by the Creek Nation in the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson.” – my snarkcasm (from above)

        ■ SOME PRIMO SNARKCASM FROM WERNER HERZOG:

        Auction Scene from Werner Herzog’s Stroszek

        Uploaded on Jun 23, 2008 — The Auction Scene from Werner Herzog’s classic film, ‘Stroszek’ (1977) about a Hungarian immigrant in Berlin, Germany, who moves to America with his girlfriend to live with his really old neighbor and his nephew who lives there. This is the auction scene with the ‘cowboy auctioneer’ – towards the end.

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        February 15, 2016, 12:26 pm

        P.S.
        Muscogee
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        [EXCERPT] The Muscogee (or Muskogee), also known as the Creek, are a Native American people traditionally from the southeastern woodlands.[2] Mvskoke is their name in traditional spelling. Today Muscogee people live primarily in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Their language, Muscogee, is a member of the Muscogee branch of the Muscogean language family.

        The Muscogee are descendants of the Mississippian culture peoples [ MAP – J.L.D. ], who built earthwork mounds at their regional chiefdoms located throughout the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries. The historian Walter L. Williams and others believe the early Spanish explorers encountered ancestors of the Muscogee when they visited Mississippian-culture chiefdoms in the Southeast in the mid-16th century.[3]

        The Muscogee were the first Native Americans considered to be “civilized” under George Washington’s civilization plan. In the 19th century, the Muscogee were known as one of the “Five Civilized Tribes“, because they had integrated numerous cultural and technological practices of their more recent European American neighbors. Influenced by their prophetic interpretations of the 1811 comet and earthquake, the Upper Towns of the Muscogee, supported by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, began to resist European-American encroachment. Internal divisions with the Lower Towns led to the Red Stick War (Creek War, 1813–1814); begun as a civil war within the Muscogee Nation, it enmeshed the Northern Creek Bands in the War of 1812 against the United States while the Southern Creeks remained US allies. General Andrew Jackson then seized the opportunity to use the rebellion as an excuse to make war against all Creeks once the northern Creek rebellion had been put down with the aid of southern Creeks. The result was a weakening of the Creek Nation and the forced ceding of Creek lands to the US.

        During the Indian Removal of the 1830s, most of the Muscogee Confederacy were forcibly relocated to Indian Territory . . .
        SOURCE – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscogee

        P.P.S. ■ A PICTORIAL, OF SORTS:

        ● IMAGE: The Mississippian culture was a mound building Native American culture that flourished in North America before the arrival of Europeans.

        ● IMAGE: Yamacraw Creek Native Americans meet with the Trustee of the colony of Georgia in England, July 1734. Notice the Native American boy (in a blue coat) and woman (in a red dress) in European clothing.

        ● IMAGE: Painting (1805) of Benjamin Hawkins on his plantation, instructing Muscogee Creek about European technology

        ● IMAGE: Gallery of the Five Civilized Tribes. The portraits were drawn or painted between 1775 and 1850.

        ● IMAGE: Depiction of William Weatherford surrendering to Andrew Jackson after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Jackson was so impressed with Weatherford’s boldness that he let him go.

        ● IMAGE: Territory ceded by the Creek nation in 1814 under the Treaty of Fort Jackson

        ● IMAGE: Menawa was one of the principal leaders of the Red Sticks. After the war, he continued to oppose white encroachment on Muscogee lands, visiting Washington, D.C. in 1826 to protest the Treaty of Indian Springs. Painted by Charles Bird King, 1837.

        ● IMAGE: Members of the Creek Nation in Oklahoma around 1877. They included men of mixed Creek, European and African ancestry.

        ● IMAGE: Interactive Time-Lapse Map Shows How the U.S. Took More Than 1.5 Billion Acres From Native Americans

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        March 3, 2016, 7:51 am

        P.P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “Is Israel a ‘Jewish Nation’? Is the US an ‘American Nation’?”, by Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 1/31/14

        [EXCERPT] . . . All countries define themselves, Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian minister and ambassador, told Rudoren. “Why doesn’t Israel call itself at the U.N. whatever they want to call it — the Jewish whatever, Maccabean, whatever they want. Then the whole world will recognize it.” But, Khoury added, “We will never recognize Israel the way they want, I mean genuinely, from our hearts. … Why for them to feel secure do we have to deny our most recent history?”
        “For them to feel secure” — There’s the heart of the matter, as Americans should easily understand. Israeli Jews, like white Americans, have always known that their claim to the land they call their own is dubious.
        Ever since the first Europeans arrived in what would become the United States, they have paraded an endless array of papers, all claiming to be treaties signed by native peoples ceding their lands to the conquerors. “You see, we have a right to this land,” the whites proudly proclaimed. Never mind that most of the treaties were either coerced, signed by native peoples who did not understand them, or outright fraudulent. They gave at least the appearance of legal right.
        Israel has a somewhat stronger case with UN Resolution 181, passed in 1947, providing for “independent Arab and Jewish States” in Palestine. But the right of the Jews to have their own state in Palestine has still remained a matter of contention (pardon the understatement) ever since.
        Why did so many white Americans find it so important to be able to waive those pieces of paper “proving” their “legal right” to the land? Why do a sizeable majority of Israeli Jews favor the demand that Palestinians acknowledge Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”? Obviously, both peoples are insecure about their right to their land. If they can get the former inhabitants to relinquish their rights, it gives the appearance, at least, that the vanquished concede to the victors a moral right to the land they have taken. . .

        ENTIRE COMMENTARY – https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/31-0

  5. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    February 11, 2016, 12:08 pm

    On a related note, Richard Silverstein tweeted this yesterday:

    Boston’s msg to Muslims: if you want to live here, don’t die coz we won’t let u be buried. http://buff.ly/23Yjean

    It reminded me of this:

    “About one half mile from Lengnau, in the direction of Endingen, is the old Jewish cemetery. It is recognized by a cluster of trees, on the right side of the road, and is surrounded by a stone wall. During the first years of settlement in Lengnau, the Jews were forbidden to bury their dead in Switzerland. They had to travel north to the Rhine River, and bury their dead on an island in the middle of the river, known as Juden Insle, Jews’ Island.” (Israelowitz, Oscar. Guide to Jewish Europe. Brooklyn, NY: Israelowitz Publishing, 1995, p. 322)

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