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
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"
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: email@example.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.