Attacking Muslims is wrong path for Republicans. Be like Bush, celebrate religious liberty
Dan Granfield, Opinion contributor Published 5:00 a.m. ET Dec. 6, 2018
During this election cycle that felt never-ending, too many conservative candidates steered their campaigns in a dangerous anti-Muslim direction. They spewed nasty rhetoric on the campaign trail, damaging the image of the Republican Party and alienating voters.
Muslim Advocates released a report in October detailing the increased amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaign messaging. It found at least 80 campaigns this cycle used shameless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Of 73 races where a candidate’s party affiliation could be positively identified, 71 of the campaign messaging supported Republican candidates. Half of the candidates were running for Congress, and 37 competed in the general election.
This isn’t a new development. There have been anti-Muslim conspiracies looming on the fringes for years. Some candidates across the country keep taking the bait. By doing so, they alienate faith-friendly voters who value diversity and cherish their neighbors who follow Islam.
To distract voters from his indictments, Hunter used anti-Muslim messaging to portray his Democratic opponent as a threat. Ammar Campa-Najjar is a former Obama official of Mexican and Palestinian descent. Hunter accused Campa-Najjar of being receptive to sharia law and looking to “infiltrate” Congress. And Hunter won — even though Campa-Najjar is a devout Christian who denounces extremist beliefs.
Brat lost his race to former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger. He accused her of having links to terrorism, despite her years of honorable service to our country. When forced to back up his claims, he'd cite Spanberger's time as a substitute teacher at an Islamic college-preparatory school as ample evidence.
Bush presidents showed Republicans the way
Especially this week, with the Bush family in the spotlight, it is hard to avoid contrasting today's rhetoric with the words of President George H.W. Bush and his son President George W. Bush. Both of them repeatedly decried discrimination and hate against Muslims, and stressed the right of all Americans to worship as they choose.
If you feel the need to attack a religious community to win an election, you lack the intelligent ideas and American values to be worthy of a seat in office.
No, conservative ideals are not consistent with the fear of Islam. Yes, there are Islamophobes jockeying for positions within our party. This cannot be the way forward for the conservative movement or the Republican Party.
This misguided political behavior is how we’ll continue to lose elections. Anti-Muslim rhetoric threatens and isolates our Muslim neighbors, and is unhealthy for our party and our country. It will continue to inspire more candidates like Joe Arpaio and Roy Moore, who have proved that they're incapable of winning anything. It will become a desperate go-to tactic for failing candidates such as Dave Brat. And it places a permanent stain on the proud history of the party of Lincoln.
We must stand for religious liberty at all times and for all religions. Religious liberty does not exist when selectively applied. Our entire history is shaped by those who fled religious persecution to build a place where they could be safe and free to worship.
Our leaders must revive compassionate politics
Our representatives need to speak out against this hateful messaging. Over the past few months, we’ve seen the dangerous real world effects of painting those who are different as “the other.” Shooting places of worship are still acts considered extreme and rare. But in today's angry political climate, prejudiced individuals have found a comfort zone.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 1,986 reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2017: a 57 percent increase from 2016. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that from 2016 to 2017, there was a 17 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents and a 15 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslim-Americans. This is unacceptable.
Our politics must immediately return to prioritizing truth and compassion over conspiracy and demagoguery.
I’m asking our elected officials: While in your districts, pay a visit to your Muslim neighbors. Visit a mosque, a community center, or even a cultural or religious festival to learn more about the issues your constituents face. They are your neighbors, and you’ve been selected to represent the interests of all of your constituents.
Never forget to celebrate the ideals that have already made America great — first and foremost among all of our freedoms, the freedom of religion.