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.
By pundits, I mean the likes of lawyer/political commentator Ann Coulter who boldly asked Muslims to “take a camel” instead of flying on a plane and talk show host Sean Hannity who compared Islam with Nazism. Others such as media personality Glenn Beck, Middle East Forum PresidentDaniel Pipes, televangelist Pat Robertson, Jihad Watchdirector Robert Spencer, and activist Pamela Gellerr also mesmerized millions with their imagery of the Muslim terrorist next door.
Then comes the funding component. Fear Inc., a 2011 report by theCenter for American Progress, showed that seven conservative charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobic think-tanks between 2001 and 2009. This fear is then packed and loaded, not on camel backs, but on the airwaves such as the Rush Limbaugh Showand the Savage Nation as well as a plethora of Web sites, blogs, forums, and chain e-mails.
Republican politicians such as Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and New York congressman Peter King and almost every Republican presidential candidate in the 2012 primaries save Ron Paul, are then given the megaphone to add trust to this fear mongering. But here is the rub: According to Gallup, 90 percent of Americans don’t even trust these politicians.
You can’t help but wonder: Why is it that nearly all Islamophobes are Republicans? Probably some “data girl” – as Carl Rove calls one of his staff members – in a cubicle reckoned that the American Muslim vote bank is better bashed, than embraced.
The theory is simple. Muslim youth? Tell them to take a camel. Muslim communities? Link them with creeping shariah. Muslim congressmen? Question their loyalty. Do it consistently and it will galvanize the conservative base.
In a tight race, such analysis is fractured and flawed. A 2010 Pew Report estimated that nearly 2.6 million Muslims live in the United States, with Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia among the top ten states with the largest Muslim populations. An en bloc Muslim vote, therefore, could have a huge impact in these swing states. Just look at the 2012 presidential elections in France where 93 percent of French Muslims voted for François Hollande, enabling him to beat Nicolas Sarkozy. By securing 96 percent of Black voter support, President Obama did the same in 2008.
Frankly, I like many of the Republican Party’s core values, but I don’t like their posture against Islam and Muslims. Just as Latinos don’t like their anti-immigration policies, and the Blacks don’t like their racial stereotyping. Just as the LBGT communities don’t like their stance on gay marriage, and women don’t like their idea of a legitimate rape.
So the 2012 Republican voices should stop telling me to “take a camel” and worry instead about the American Muslim vote – united against them. Who knows? It might prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and he teaches courses about Islam at the University of Baltimore. He is also founder of Muslimerican.com and can be reached at Faheem.firstname.lastname@example.org.