Not a Good Night for Islamophobia
Tuesday was not a good day for the Muslim-baiting wing of the GOP, with the defeat of Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and with onetime presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann holding her House seat in Minnesota by a razor-thin margin. They have been among the most high-profile members of Congress to spend a goodly amount of their political capital chasing down the bugaboo of Muslim jihad in America.
Bachmann won her re-election by barely 4,200 votes. Her spotlight-grabbing antics, a laundry list of kooky comments and presidential campaigning, probably played into that, but the Associated Press noted that her recent attempt to tie Hillary Clinton’s top aide to the Muslim Brotherhood, which earned Bachmann a smackdown from John McCain and other Republicans, contributed to her unpopularity among constituents. As for one-term West, who left his 18th District in south Florida for an ostensibly more GOP-friendly one in the 22nd District, he seems to have lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy by only 2,500 votes. He has filed injunctions for a recount and an examination of the electronic voting machines, citing “irregularities” and violations on the part of local election officials.
West is one most Islamophobic pols around, a compatriot of jihad hunters Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who not only claim that Islam is evil, but insist that Muslim radicals have infiltrated the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and top levels of government. Geller recently made headlines when her group sponsored pro-Israel New York City subway ads that suggested Palestinian Muslims are “savages.”
The unfounded accusations that dozens of Communists populate the Congress’s Democratic caucus were nothing new, but his most novel legacy may be West’s inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims….West used his time in Congress to press his case that Islam is “not a religion” but a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology,” and that terrorism is inherent to the faith—not radical Islam, but Islam, writ large. He’s accused a fellow Member of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, of “represent(ing) the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”
Ellison, by the way, beat back his opponent in Tuesday’s election, Republican challenger Chris Fields, with 65 percent of the vote. Ellison, of course, was forced to defend his faith every step of the way. In one particularly atrocious instance, Fields called Ellison “militantly anti-America” in a mailer. “Being attacked for my religion never bothered me before,” Ellison told reporters. “This time around though, it was a little meaner.”
It seems that a growing number of voters just aren’t comfortable with the vitriol coming from these politicians. Also losing Tuesday were Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, who once said he was “looking for some godly men and women in the Senate, in the Congress, who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam.” Republican Adam Hasner, another Spencer-Geller acolyte who attempted to grab West’s old seat in Florida’s 18th, lost too. The Florida Independent wrote that Hasner, who once brought anti-Muslim Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to his state to speak, has been on a “long-time crusade against the supposed threat of Sharia in the U.S.”
“You cannot fight an enemy when you will not acknowledge that an enemy even exists, and that enemy has a name, and that is Shariah-compliant Islam,” Hasner reportedly told a conservative group in 2008.
Hasner will have plenty of time to fight “the enemy” now. So will plenty of other candidates on the state level, too. Republican Charlie Faqua, who self-published a book calling for the deportation of all Muslims, lost his election to a Democrat in the Arkansas state senate. His loss helped to flip the Senate to Democratic control for the first time since Reconstruction.
Republican jihad hunters whipped up a frenzy against the Muslim “scourge” during the Tea Party wave in 2010. That’s why Newt Gingrich, another GOP presidential loser, had no compunction about saying in August 2010: “We are all George Washington now, and this is our Delaware crossing, our march on Trenton. Liberation from tyranny is ours if we are willing to fight hard enough for it. Sharia law is our tyranny. It’s not exactly here yet. But it will be.”
But that was 2010, and this is now, says Beinart. “Though West lost, his fellow congressional Islamophobes [NY Rep. Peter] King and Bachmann fared better—winning and hanging on in a race too close to call, respectively,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, given West’s visibility, the Florida loss can on its own be seen as a victory for the religious tolerance and liberty, indeed, ‘upon which this country was established.'”