In the 2008 presidential race, White House hopefuls, mainly Republicans, are linking Islam with terrorism as a tool to scare up support among US voters, an election style experts describe as “shameful”, as Muslims are still too absent from the scene to make the contenders re-consider.
Republicans fiercely attacking Islam as a religion interwoven with terrorism are targeting evangelical churches and conservative Americans seeking to preserve the strict Christian faith in the government and fear the possibility that the future president may open the door wider for Muslims to enter mainstream society.
Republican Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, called Islamo-fascism “the greatest threat this country has ever faced”, while his party challenger Arizona Senator John McCain rejected US trade with nations accused of sympathizing with terrorist groups, saying “I’m not interested in trading with Al-Qaeda.” “Islamic terrorists are at war with us,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor-turned presidential hopeful told voters in Maryland. “They want to kill us,” he warned supporters in New Hampshire.
Giuliani criticized Democrats for not using the words “Islamic terrorist, Islamic extremist, Islamic fascist”, in their campaign speeches, adding “You don’t insult anyone who is Islamic who isn’t a terrorist.”
According to Dr. Juan Cole, history professor at the University of Michigan and founder of the Global Americana Institute, an organization that translates classical American texts into various Middle Eastern languages, this kind of rhetoric is “shameful and alarming” because it presumes the essence of Islam and generalized Muslims, all 1.5 billion of them, as being related to terrorism.
“There are Muslim, Christian, and other terrorists. But the term ‘Islamic terrorist’ suggests there is something about Islam,” he said.
A popular phrases used by the Bush Administration, “Islamo-fascism”, conflates Islam with Mussolini’s fascist movement. . .
The fear and bigotry facing the American Muslim community is similar to the Japanese-American communities during World War II, as “they are the only other community blamed for an attack on this nation,” according to Corey Saylor, legislative director for civil rights group Council on American Islamic Relations, in Washington DC.
“It took them 40 years and they got an apology out of the government and compensation that took a lot of organizing, a lot of patience, and a lot of learning,” noted Saylor, referring to Japanese-Americans.
Advocates acknowledge there is no easy or quick solution to fixing fear of Islam.
The solution to these problems, they suggest, depends on the Muslim community and institutions. They call on Muslims to get politically involved, start political action committees and connect with national Muslim groups, and take more active roles in public affairs.
But “don’t expect an immediate seat at the table,” according to Saylor, “that time will come eventually.” (MORE)