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The Right's New Target of Hatred: American Muslims
March 13, 2002
By J. Carlos Jiacinto

September 11, 2001 changed America forever. For the first time since the War of 1812 a foreign power attacked the continental United States. The most catastrophic terrorist plot since Pearl Harbor, the World Trade Center attacks killed nearly 3000 Americans. Two planes collided into the large towers, forever shattering America's sense of security.

In the weeks and the months that followed this country repeated a similiar pattern of racism and xenophobia that has characterized its more than 200 years of history. Columnists such as Ann Coulter wrote that "we should invade their [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" ("This is War" 14 September 2001). Pat Robertson and his fellow fundamentalist Christian leaders referred to Islam as a "violent region", rallying millions of Americans to this campaign of intolerance. From all fronts it seems as if America is entering a new period of xenophobia and racism, similiar to past unfortunate eras. As usual the leaders of this unjust, reprehensible backlash share conservative beliefs in common. The most vocal proponents of government-sponsored racism toward Muslims remain conservative Republicans. Although they believe that their actions help this country, they remain horrbily wrong. One, they promote intolerance; and two, it only discredits their cause even further.

Over the last six months the evidence speaks loudly that, among many citizens, being a Muslim in America is tantamount to supporting the enemy. An irrational fear exists among many segments of the population that all Muslims, rather than just Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden, support the "enemy." Conservative pundits indulge these xenophobic fears. Ann Coulter, whose words feed into the fears, insecurities, and intolerance of many Americans, incites this backlash. In a recent article she defends racial profiling: "There is no principled basis for opposition to using Arab appearance as a factor in airport screening procedures. . . This is not a psychological about an ethnic group - it is an all points bulletin: Warning! The next terrorist to board a commerical flight will be an Arab or Muslim male" ("If the Profile Fits" 10 January 2002)

Ms. Coulter feeds into this frenzy even futher. In another article she advocates that the government deport Arabs and Muslims. She states that "Congress coudl pass a law requiring that all aliens from Arabic countries leave. . .Congress could certainly pass a law requiring all aliens to get approval from the INS before bording an airplane in the United States" ("Where is Janet Reno when we need her" 20 Septebmer 2001). Her racist rhetoric labels all Muslims as being terrorists. She urges Muslisms who want to avoid deportation to "spy" on fellow citizens: "Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim. . . There will be two fail-safes: (1) Muslim immigrants who agree to spy on the millions of Americans unaffected by the deportation order can stay; and (2) any Muslim immigrant who gets a U.S. Senator to waive his deportation - by name - gets to stay" ("Future Widows of America: Write Your Congressman" 27 September 2001). Coulter uses no euphemisms or thinly coded appeals; she states her case with the most inciting rhetoric possible.

Fellow conservative Peggy Noonan provides advice to Americans on how to "survive" the "war" on terrorism. Like Coulter her words cut to the chase. She urges Americans to "appoint [themselves] member[s] of the Neighboard Civilian Defense Patrol. . . If you see anything funny--say, guys with box cutters who look like they could be Mideastern terrorists and who happen to be videotaping the main office of the local nuclear power plant--take out your weapon: your camera" ("We're All Soldiers Now" 2 November 2001). Noonan's words incite and encourage Americans not only to watch their neighborhoods, but to view every Arab or Middle Eastern man as a "threat". The thought of mobs persecuting Muslims, destroying their businesses, and physically assualting them--like the "Crystal Night Raids" in Hiter's Germany--comes to mind. Noonan argues for an approach that inevitably will lead to mass hysteria.

What Robertson, Coulter, Noonan, and other conservatives fail to realize is that their racism and intolerance only hurts their cause. Surveys taken after the 2000 presidential election reveal that Muslims voted overwhelimingly for Bush over Gore. In Florida: "about 91 percent of Muslims . . . cast ballots for Bush as part of an alliance-endorsed voting bloc, said chapter Chairman Tahir Ali, of Westborough" ("US Muslims Might have elected Bush" The Middle East Times. http://www.metimes.com). In political views most Muslims remain moderate to conservative. In terms of party affliation 40% of Muslims register Democratic, 23% are Republican, and 28% are independent ("Narrative Summary" http://www.projectmaps.com/PMReport.htm). Muslims' electoral participation is extremely high: "85% are likely to vote" ("Narrative Summary" http://www.projectmaps.com/PMReport.htm). Among Arabs a solid majority voted for Bush. According to the Project Maps survey, "the majority (54%) of Arabs voted . . .for Bush"("Narrative Summary" http://www.projectmaps.com/PMReport.htm). President Bush owes a significant part of his "victory" in 2000 to Muslim Americans' support for him over Gore. Clearly the approach advocated by Coulter and her colleagues hurts his case, especially with the 2002 and 2004 elections which will take place in the near future.

Like Pete Wilson in California the Republican Party never seems to learn its lesson: immigrant bashing never translates into long term electoral success. After endorsing and voting for Bush, after so many individuals in his party all but declared "war" on Muslims, the evidence presented in this article all but ensures that they will seriously reconsider their alliegance with Bush. Many Muslims evidently regret supporting the Republicans in 2000, and they will remember the words of Ann Coutler and her counterparts when they vote at the ballot box.

This new era of intolerance represents the worst of America. If the Republicans wish to be indentified with this cause it will be their tragic mistake. They never learn their lesson and openly declare war on one of the groups responsible for their electoral success. Their new target of hatred threatens to very well be the catalyst that leads to their downfall. And the Democrats should be waiting to welcome these voters with open arms into the party.

 
J. Carlos Jiacinto (e-mail: jiacinto@hotmail.com), a graduate of Dickinson College's class of 2000, lives in Washington, DC. He is currently working on a Master's Degree in International Politics and International Economic Policy at American University.

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