Last October, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted 376-0 to honor the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, three of Indiana’s four Republicans voted “present.”
Reps. Mike Pence and Mark Souder, who’ve never been mistaken for secularists, claimed discomfort with government recognition of any religion.
Rep. Steve Buyer was less delicate. “I do not believe that a congressional commendation of those committed to the Muslim faith should be interpreted by Muslim leaders that America is satisfied with their infrequent and often muted whispers of discontent for Islamic terrorists,” said he.
In fact, the resolution seemed to address his objection. It extended appreciation to those Muslims “who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence, and terror.”
There are such Muslims, and many of them. Alas, it does not seem they can bend over backward far enough to satisfy a substantial contingent who insist on a raised bar of loyalty proof when it comes to a certain widely practiced religion.
Consider Andre Carson. In the latter days of his campaign for the 7th District Congressional seat, it came out that he had received a $1,000 donation from a Virginia financier named M. Yaqub Mirza, who had been investigated by the feds six years ago in connection with terrorism. Carson returned the money, explaining via a spokesperson that the contributor did not “reflect the values of the campaign.”
That had a nice ring in Central Indiana, but what exactly did it mean? That Mirza was/is an unsavory character, and exotically unsavory to boot, we suppose. But the fact is, Mirza never was charged with a crime or even subjected to the post-9/11 routine of being indefinitely detained without charges.
Maybe Mirza is a terrorist. Various news reports and blogs associate him with suspect groups at various degrees of remove. He’s also distinguished as an adviser in faith-based investments and an advocate for Sunni-Shiite reconciliation in Iraq. If he were not Muslim, I suspect we’d trust the government’s implicit judgment that this exhaustively vetted citizen is not a menace and not an election issue.
All the same, he had to be repudiated, just as the endorsement from celebrated has-been Louis Farrakhan had to be. And still, the chorus has not been quieted.
Carson opponent Jon Elrod, an attorney who must have run across the concept of due process at some point in law school, denounced him through a spokesperson for taking the Mirza money in the first place — Carson being, after all, a former homeland security officer.
Again, does being investigated while being Muslim make one a threat to our security? In enough minds, it does. Carson, unlike John McCain with his endorsement from a notorious anti-Catholic evangelist, was forced into a — purely tactical — concession.
Same with the Farrakhan business. Carson’s contrition for that association entailed meetings not just with local Jewish leaders but with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Washington lobby that serves a government to which Carson owes absolutely no allegiance.
Is there a chunk of 7th District residents, I asked Carson, who would not vote for any Muslim for public office?
“Yes,” he replied. “But the number is shrinking day by day. Hoosiers are smart. They’re concerned with the issues.”
I’ll take that on faith.