A strong anti-Islamic sentiment has been spreading through the political environment this season, worming its way into campaigns and being used as a smear tactic.
It is present in speeches, advertisements and campaign literature. Why is it now tolerable to target the Islamic faith so intensely within political rhetoric?
We at The Butler Collegian disagree with the use of fear mongering and anti-Islamic messages in today’s political campaigns. This tactic is so effective because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent negative stigma associated with the Islamic faith which is utterly deplorable.
Recently, a battle has broken out in Florida’s 8th Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives between candidates Republican Dan Webster and Democrat Alan Grayson. During a speech, Webster said to his audience that husbands should look beyond traditional bible verses, such as “she shall submit to me” in relation to marriage. Grayson’s campaign removed this phrase from Webster’s speech and created a video labeling the Republican candidate as “Taliban Dan.”
The actions of Grayson’s campaign were unnecessary and inaccurate. Taking an out-of-context quote from Webster and using it to label him a member of a radical Islamic group is slanderous and insulting to the Islamic faith. Members of the Islamic faith who belong to the Taliban are members of a radical sect and they are few and far between. By airing ads such as this, politicians continue to misinform the American public about the Islamic faith as well as place unfair labels on Muslims.
Another instance of misinformation regarding Islam and Muslims was in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District regarding Rep. Keith Ellison. Judson Phillips, creator of the Tea Party Nation, sent out an e-mail favoring Ellison’s opponent, Lynne Torgerson.
Phillips’ e-mail was rife with misleading and false comments regarding Ellison and his Congressional practices. An excerpt from Phillips’ e-mail said: “He’s the only Muslim member of Congress. He supports the council for American Islamic relations, Hamas and has helped Congress send millions of tax dollars to terrorists in Gaza.”
The issue here is about more than a few disparaging comments regarding a Muslim Congress member. The problem is that Phillips blatantly lied about the practices of Ellison while in Congress and was slandering his name to the American public. This is one of many examples of the tolerance of artificial comments thrown around by politicians and interest groups in regards to opponents or candidates in general.
This is not the first time our country has used a religion or a minority as a scapegoat.
Let us recall the “Red Scare”, led by radical politician Sen. Joe McCarthy from 1947-1957. Hundreds of Americans were unfairly imprisoned and blacklisted under the suspicion that they might have been Communists.
American politicians are doing the same thing today, targeting and falsely accusing their opponents of being Islamic fundamentalists who associate with terrorists and the Taliban.
Although issues within politics regarding the Islamic faith are not as extreme as “McCarthyism” once was, America’s refusal to acknowledge the detrimental effects of attacking one religion so deliberately dooms us to repeating history.
Politicians should remain focused on the issues regarding their campaigns and the issues of their constituents rather than the religion or race of their opponents.
Personal characteristics should not affect how a person behaves in office or whether or not they receive votes from the public.
The focus on Islam is distracting and continues to feed the American public propaganda that is strengthening the anti-Islamic sentiment that is so contagious within our country. These political tactics are distasteful and slanderous and need to be stopped.
There will always be members of opposing faiths within our political system. The solution is not hatred, but rather a willingness to accept differing viewpoints.