Obviously anti-Muslim bigotry existed before Donald Trump ran for president. But Trump politically weaponized it with his call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration and with his despicable fearmongering in statements like “Islam hates us.”
So it comes as zero surprise that other Republican candidates would try to mimic Trump’s Muslim-bashing, hoping it would also lead them to electoral gold. But a report released by the legal advocacy and educational organization Muslim Advocates on Monday found overwhelmingly these Trump knock-offs are losing their elections.
As the Muslim Advocates’ report disturbingly documents, nearly 80 Republican candidates since 2017 have tried their hand at ginning up fears of Muslims in races from school board to governor. For example, in Parkway, Missouri, Trump-loving school board candidate Jeanie Ames, in between posts demonizing Michelle Obama and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), wrote: “To be opposed to evil is to be opposed to Islam! Let the Crusade begin! Ban Islam in America!” Thankfully, Ames lost her election in April.
And in a race for city council In Omaha, Nebraska last year, Republican Paul Anderson also let his anti-Muslim flag fly by declaring, “There will be no mosques in Omaha.” Anderson then proclaimed his vision of America, which echoed Trump’s Muslim ban: “I don’t have a problem with immigration… They just have to be Christians. Or no faith or Jewish.” After a backlash, Anderson dropped out of the race.
But it’s not just the lunatic fringe spewing anti-Muslim hate. Establishment Republicans have also picked up the bigoted torch from Trump. In this year’s race for the GOP nomination for Michigan governor, one candidate, State Senator Pat Colbeck, claimed that then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed was part of a “civilization jihad” intent on imposing sharia law in Michigan. Colbeck, who had been endorsed by Ted Cruz and Sean Hannity, lost the primary.
And right now there are two openly anti-Muslim campaigns being waged by GOP members of Congress in a desperate effort to win re-election. The first is by indicted GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter in California, where he has accused his Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hunter, who is campaigning while out on bail, apparently doesn’t care that his opponent is actually protestant. When it comes to ginning up fear, facts don’t matter.
And then there’s the outrageous ad in Virginia targeting Democrat Abigail Spanberger being run by the Paul Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund in an effort to help GOP Rep. David Brat. Spanberger, a former federal law enforcement officer and CIA Operations officer, clearly has Brat and the GOP worried. So this Super PAC flush with millions from GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is trying to scare voters that somehow Spanberger is tied to terrorism.
So how do you smear a person who worked fighting terrorism as a terrorist sympathizer? You use innuendo and lies, of course. You see, Spanberger worked part of the 2002-03 school year teaching English literature at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Virginia while awaiting her CIA security clearance to be approved by the federal government. Well that was enough for the GOP to claim she must have ties to Islamic terrorism so they are running a commercial that opens with a narrator asking, “What is Abigail Spanberger hiding?” as ominous music plays in the background. The ad continues with the narrator declaring: “Spanberger doesn’t want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed ‘Terror High,’ a terrorist breeding ground.” And Brat has echoed the same claims.
In reality Spanberger was hired by the CIA in 2002 but during the years it took to obtain her security clearance she worked at various jobs to make ends meet. One was as a part time substitute teacher at that school while other jobs included working as a federal postal inspector and as a waitress. (How long until the GOP claims Spanberger served falafels as a waitress which to them is “terrorist food”?!) Spanberger later received her security clearance from the Bush administration and worked for eight and half years as a CIA officer, where she was literally involved in helping keep our nation safe from terrorism.
Per the Muslim Advocates report, of the 34 anti-Muslim GOP candidates on the ballot this November in various races from Congress to state elected officials. Nine are projected to win and several others are in competitive races. To those who think that only 34 candidates across the nation who are or have openly espoused anti-Muslim hate is no big deal, you are woefully wrong. Imagine if there were 34 candidates, some who are in Congress, who were openly anti-Semitic or openly racist against blacks?! There would rightfully be an outcry across the media. But when it comes to anti-Muslim hate, there’s barely a mention.
And despite the fact that most of these Republican will lose won’t change the GOP approach to politics. To Republicans, anti-Muslim bigotry is as much of a part of their platform as advocating for lower taxes and smaller government. In fact, on Monday Trump played on anti-Muslim fears when he took to Twitter to claim that the caravan traveling up through Mexico is not made up just of “bad” Latinos; now, “unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.” Trump even admitted that he had no evidence to back up this claim but when it comes to fearmongering about Muslims, Republicans don’t need any.
People often ask me as a Muslim American, when do I think the GOP will stop demonizing Muslims for political gain? The answer is simple. As soon as they can find a new enemy to replace Muslims that is more effective. But until then we can expect the Republicans to pivot back to hating on Muslims because sadly it animates much of the GOP’s bigoted base. Win or lose.