The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American civil rights organization, condemns an online survey sent to voters by the Republican National Committee (RNC). Unfortunately, the RNC has signaled its willingness once again to promote divisive attacks in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections.
The leading question falsely suggests that Sharia (Islamic law) is an extant problem in America. In reality, the specter of Sharia subverting the US Constitution exists only in the minds of far-right paranoids and conspiracy theorists. Question No. 27 might as well have asked if voters were worried about the spread of the American Community Party for Sharia is simply the new bogeyman for latter-day McCarthyites.
For the better part of a decade, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propagandists on Fox News, right-wing talk radio, alt-right websites, and outfits like the Center for Security Policy have promoted the bigoted fiction that there is a grand Muslim conspiracy to impose Islamic law in the US. And how exactly are Muslims – less than 2% of the population – supposed to realize this nefarious goal? Borrowing from anti-Semitic canards, Islamophobes speak of Muslims quietly infiltrating our government to surreptitiously spread Sharia. Akin to Joe McCarthy’s targeting of innocent people, the anti-Muslim mob slanders patriotic public servants. Sohail Mohammed, a judge appointed to a New Jersey Superior Court by Gov. Chris Christie, was defamed as a harbinger of Sharia in the judicial system; Christie branded Mohammed’s detractors as “crazies.” Hillary Clinton’s senior advisor Huma Abedin was baselessly accused of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But the conspiracy nuts really outdid themselves with the 2009 publication of “Muslim Mafia.” The book’s sole bit of evidence, as it were, to back-up its sub-headline of a “Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America” was a stolen memo from the Council of American Islamic Affairs encouraging young Muslim-Americans to volunteer as Congressional interns.
In many cases, the mythical threat of radical Muslims imposing their religious dogma on everyone else is nothing but plain old projection. Much of the anti-Muslim animus can be found in the far-right Christian coalition spearheaded by Pat Robertson and his ilk, and it is this same group that never ceases in its quest to deny millions of gay and lesbian Americans their civil rights. A majority of Muslims believe homosexuality should be accepted in society while only 34% of Evangelical Christians say the same. A plurality of American-Muslims (44 support versus 41 opposed) support gay marriage while a majority of Evangelicals remain opposed. Muslims are more likely to keep Church and State separate than their antagonists who make a big fuss about the alleged mote in their brother’s eye whilst not considering the beam in their own eyes.
Anti-Muslim forces will continue to promote their Sharia conspiracy theories, all the evidence and logic to the contrary be damned. What’s more alarming is that the RNC would parrot this notion to its base. The RNC message may warm the hearts of the far-right, but elections are not won on the extreme ends. Take the Virginia governor’s race earlier this month. The Republican candidate played the xenophobia card; he lost in a landslide. The Democrat’s triumph was partly thanks to the “broad spectrum of Latinos, Arabs and South Asians” voters, the New York Times reported.
Stoking racial and religious animus is not only a losing political strategy but tears at the fabric of our country. The RNC should apologize and commit itself to an inclusive party platform that welcomes all Americans.