As delegates to the Republican National Convention gear up for speeches by Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, an Islamic civil liberties group is urging the GOP candidates to stay away from Muslim-bashing and extend an olive branch to members of the faith.

“We urge Senator McCain and Governor Palin to offer inclusive speeches at this week’s Republican convention and ask that they both avoid divisive Islamophobic rhetoric,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

“True leaders do not exploit fear or stereotypes for political gain,” Awad said in a statement Wednesday. “We hope to hear Senator McCain and Governor Palin say they will defend the civil and religious rights of all Americans, work with the American Muslim community in making our nation both free and secure and help build better relations with the Islamic world.”

McCain sometimes refers to Islamic terrorism or extremism or radical Islam in his speeches–rhetoric that many American Muslims believe serves to marginalize religious minorities, particularly Muslims, CAIR said in a statement.

Palin speaks Wednesday night and McCain speaks Thursday night. While the contents of their speeches remain to be seen, the Republican candidates may have already disappointed CAIR on at least one front. While this year’s Republican gathering is chock-a-block with self-described Christians, there are no visibly Muslim attendees: there isn’t a headscarf or skullcap to be seen inside the Xcel Energy Center. (MORE)


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