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| AMP REPORT – June 15, 2011
Islamophobia at the GOP debate in New Hampshire
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The seven-million strong American Muslim community was dismayed at the anti-Muslim sentiment displayed by Republican presidential candidates during June 13, 2011 debate in New Hampshire. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s compared Muslims to Nazis.
Gingrich responded to questions about loyalty tests for administration officials, he referred to the case of attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad himself took an oath when he became an American citizen and compared hiring Muslims to how Americans dealt with Nazis in the 1940s. ”We did this in dealing with the Nazis. We did this in dealing with the Communists. And it was controversial both times and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘No,’” he concluded.
Gingrich brought up the same example of the attempted Times Square bomber’s loyalty at a debate in February, saying he “lied [about his loyalty to America] to get American citizenship.”
Although he might have created a firestorm, this isn’t the first time Gingrich has made such a comparison and, to many, his most recent comments are anything but surprising.
Gingrich spoke fervently in August against the proposed mosque and community center to be built near Ground Zero, saying that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to do so just as “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington,” or “we would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.”
The Former House speaker has suggested a federal anti-Sharia law. He also said: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they [his grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists. …” Gingrich once issued a statement calling for a ban on all mosques near Ground Zero “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”
Governor Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney distinguished himself from his GOP rivals at the debate in an important way: He refused to take the Sharia-panic bait and said:
“Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have Shariah law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law. No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion.
“Obviously, anybody who would come into my administration would be someone who I knew, who I was comfortable with, and who I believed would honor as their highest oath — their oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.”
To borrow Justin Elliott of Salon, this was no doubt a significant moment in the GOP primary: one of the leading candidates — perhaps the leading candidate — took a clear stand against Shariah fear-mongering.
Herman Cain again refused to fully back away from his now-famous statement that he would not be comfortable appointing a Muslim to his cabinet. His response to a question about that stance was fairly muddled, but the bottom line seemed clear: he would apply special scrutiny to potential Muslim appointees in a future Cain administration.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said to CNN’s John King: “I would ask certain questions, John. And it’s not a litmus test. It is simply trying to make sure that we have people committed to the Constitution first in order for them to work effectively in the administration.” At one point Cain also explained his view that “you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us.”
Speaking about June 13, 2011 debate, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement:
“When the candidates were asked: ‘Are American-Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christians or Jews?’ not one spoke up to support religious tolerance.
“While most remained silent, Herman Cain reiterated his position that he would treat Muslims differently than members of other faiths. Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich echoed the far-right manufactured controversy about sharia replacing the Constitution.
“Since the U.S. Constitution is the law of the land, there is no question of any other body of law replacing it. People who choose to have disputes resolved using the traditions of their faith should have the right to do so as long as such agreements comply with American law.
“Muslim groups are currently at the forefront in defending the Constitution against attempts by many states to pass anti-Muslim legislation that clearly violates the Bill of Rights. Our community expends enormous advocacy and legal energy defending the Constitution.
“We would be interested in hearing the candidates’ opinions of efforts by legislators in a number of states to subvert the Constitution by passing laws that specifically discriminate against Muslims. Of particular concern is Oklahoma, where a measure was passed that would enshrine disapproval of Islam in the state constitution.
“Cain’s statement about excluding people ‘who are trying to kill us’ from any future administration seems like a self-evident goal. CAIR views it as a weak attempt to cover his early pronouncement that Muslims would not be welcome in his administration.
“Gingrich’s reference to the actions of one individual as a means of casting suspicion on an entire community was reminiscent of tactics used by propaganda masters of the past. It is unconscionable that he would equate American Muslims with Nazis and communists.”