Sunday, April 03, 2016

Anti-Muslim prejudice is a major concern in both Donald Trump's and Ted Cruz's campaigns.

The following e-mail was sent to me by US journalist and friend Arnold Isaacs:

It's a challenge to single out any one toxic issue from the current
Republican presidential mudfight, but it's worth noting that ugly and
dangerous anti-Muslim prejudice is a major concern in both Donald
Trump's and Ted Cruz's campaigns.

Trump's call to bar Muslims from entering the country has gotten most of
the headlines. But there are many more stories that should have had more
attention than they've received, showing among other things that Ted
Cruz is NOT the lesser evil in this regard. Cruz's naming some of the
most fanatical members of the Islamophobe network to his team of
advisors is an example. It drew some critical comments when he announced
the list but as far as I could tell was pretty much a one-day story, and
the reporting I saw did not come close to explaining how shocking his
choices really were.

Exhibit A is retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who has said things such as
"Islam is evil. Islam is an evil concept," "Islam is not a religion and
does not deserve First Amendment protections," and "those following the
dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our
Constitution and replace it with shari'a law.” He's also declared that
Christians should "go on the offensive" to prevent Muslims in America
from building any more mosques.

(Not directly on this topic but I can't resist noting that Boykin also
preached a couple of years ago that when Jesus returns, he will be
carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. Not a joke. You can listen to it at
-- and ask yourself, are you reassured that a possible U.S. president is
listening to this guy's advice on foreign policy? Or on anything?)

Cruz also named Frank Gaffney and a couple of his colleagues from his
Center for Security Policy, one of the major-league anti-Muslim
organizations, which specializes in dire warnings about the imminent
danger that Muslims will impose shari'a law on the United States.
Gaffney has said that Muslims who observe shari'a should be prosecuted
for sedition. He advocates banning "not just refugees, but anyone coming
in under any immigration program from Syria and Iraq"; all immigration
from a list of other countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,
Somalia, Libya, and Afghanistan; and a moratorium on ALL refugee

As I said, there was a bit of tongue-clucking from the pundit tribe when
Cruz announced those appointments, but it was pretty transitory. That
tells something about the different yardstick the media and our society
in general apply to anti-Muslim views as opposed to bias against other
minorities. I am pretty sure that if Cruz had named someone with a
comparable record of bigotry toward Jews or African Americans, the
outrage and outcry would have been far more intense and lasted a lot

As to Trump, it's striking that the one story with staying power has
been his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, while other
more outrageous statements are mentioned much more sporadically. At the
top of my list is his saying he would "take out" terrorists' families --
and that not doing so is "fighting a very politically correct war."
Personally I think that is the single worst thing he or anyone has said
in this campaign. (Worth noting that he backed it up with one of his
most blatant lies, about the 9/11 hijackers sending their families out
of the country -- a story he has repeated even after it was conclusively
shown to be false.) The second worst statement is Trump's enthusiastic
endorsement of torture -- "Believe me, it works... If it doesn’t work,
they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”

I'm not sure why embracing those flagrantly illegal and immoral policies
has gotten so much less coverage than banning Muslim entry to the
country. Maybe it's because the latter ties more directly to the
immigration issue, which has raised broader public concern. But it's
hard to avoid a sense that bigotry against Muslims is fairly widely
accepted as a legitimate viewpoint, compared to prejudice against other

This is not only troubling about our values. It is also dangerous on
completely practical grounds. Just about all real terrorism experts will
tell you that anti-Islamic attitudes and actions will not lead to more
effective counter-terror efforts, but exactly the opposite. Treating
Muslim communities as a potential enemy population reinforces the
extremist narrative. It says exactly what they want Muslims here and
around the world to believe -- that America is at war with Islam and
Muslims have to strike back. We are safer when Muslims in this country
feel accepted and respected, trust American law enforcement and identify
with American institutions. We are less safe when we alienate Muslims by
public hostility and suspicion and repressive policies. Those make the
extremist argument more credible and will make people more reluctant to
cooperate with anti-terror authorities. Trump and Cruz may win some
votes by playing to people's fears, but the attitudes and policies they
support help the jihadists, not public safety.

There are very few if any Trump or Cruz supporters in my address book,
so this mailing will largely be preaching to the choir. But I think it's
an important message, and if any of you can find useful places to
deliver it, I hope you'll do so.

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