(WASHINGTON D.C., 9/3/08) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on John McCain and Sarah Palin to ‘avoid divisive Islamophobic rhetoric’ and instead offer ‘inclusive’ addresses at this week’s GOP convention in Minnesota.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Sen. McCain and his supporters have in the past used rhetoric that many American Muslims believe serves to marginalize religious minorities, particularly Muslims.
Just today at the Republican National Convention, former House majority leader Dick Armey said Barack Obama’s “funny name” could “give people concerns that he could be or have been too much influenced by Muslims, which is a great threat now.”
SEE: Armey: ‘Bubba Vote’ to Hurt Obama (USA Today)
In a recent campaign speech, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said McCain would make decisions based on “Judeo-Christian values.” Last fall, McCain stated that America was “founded primarily on Christian principles” and that he would not be comfortable with a Muslim in the White House. [McCain later said: “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”]
SEE: McCain Casts Muslims as Less Fit to Lead (NY Times)
SEE ALSO: Lieberman Praises McCain at Holocaust Center (Detroit Free Press)
In his speeches, McCain often refers to “radical Islam,” “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic extremism,” rhetoric that has been questioned by mainstream American Muslim groups, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Earlier this year, a McCain surrogate in Florida defended the Iraq war by saying, “the Muslims have said either we kneel, or they’re going to kill us.” The McCain campaign responded by stating: “The threat we face is from radical Islamic extremism.”
McCain also distanced himself from two Christian leaders who made prejudiced comments about Muslims and other religious minorities.
SEE: CAIR Welcomes McCain’s Rejection of Bigoted Pastors
In a statement, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said:
“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. It is all too easy to use hot-button terms to garner votes, but true leaders do not exploit fear or stereotypes for political gain. 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.”
He suggested that McCain and Palin reflect the Republican Party Platform, which states: “The struggle in which we are engaged is ideological, not ethnic or religious. The extremists we face are abusers of faith, not its champions. We appreciate the loyalty of all Americans whose family roots lie in the Middle East, and we gratefully acknowledge the contributions of American Arabs and Muslims, especially those in the Armed Forces and the intelligence community.”
SEE: Republican Party Platform
Awad added that Muslims have called on candidates of all political parties to reject Islamophobia and believe using phrases such as “Islamic terrorism” may unintentionally provide religious legitimacy to terrorists.
SEE: Obama, McCain Should Condemn Islamophobia (Detroit News)
SEE ALSO: Amendment to Bill Could Serve Terrorists’ Interest (Detroit Free Press)
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org