Seven-million strong American Muslim-community was dismayed at the Islamophobic rhetoric at the Republican Party Convention that ended in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 4, 2008.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in their speeches made bigoted remarks that equated Islam with terrorism.
"For four days in Denver, the Democrats were afraid to use the words 'Islamic terrorism,'" Guiliani said. "I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it. I think they believe it will insult someone. Please, tell me, who are they insulting, if they say 'Islamic terrorism?' They are insulting terrorists."
At the same time, Romney said: "Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitution rights?" "John McCain hit the nail on the head: radical violent Islam is evil, and he will defeat it," he added.
The Islamophobic rhetoric of Romney and Giuliani came amid bigoted and racist remarks of Dick Armey, an architect of the "Republican revolution" that won the House majority in the 1994 election. Amey said that Barack Obama's "funny name" could "give people concerns that he could be or have been too much influenced by Muslims, which is a great threat now."
The "Bubba vote" is "invisible" in pre-election opinion polls because voters do not admit such prejudices, Dick Armey claimed. According to USA today, the "Bubba vote" is shorthand in politics for white, working-class voters who often live in rural areas- a group Obama did not win in state primaries.
The Islamophobic remarks of the Republican Party leaders are not surprising since Sen. McCain and other Republican Party luminaries have used rhetoric during the 2008 presidential campaign to marginalize Muslims.
In his speeches, McCain often refers to "radical Islam," "Islamic terrorism" or "Islamic extremism," rhetoric that has been questioned by mainstream American Muslim groups, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In April last, Senator John McCain has declined to stop using the adjective "Islamic" to describe terrorists and extremist enemies of the United States. Steve Schmidt, a former Bush White House aide who is now a McCain media strategist, said that the use of the word is appropriate and that the candidate will continue to define the enemy that way. In a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCain said the formation of an international coalition "will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism."
In July last, Col. Bud Day, a McCain surrogate in Florida defended the Iraq war by saying, "the Muslims have said either we kneel, or they're going to kill us." The McCain campaign refused to disown Col. Day's remarks by stating: "The threat we face is from radical Islamic extremism."
During the Republican primaries last year John Deady, co-chairman of the New Hampshire Veterans for Rudy Giuliani, told the newspaper that Giuliani has "the knowledge and judgment to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history. And that is the rise of the Muslims. And make no mistake about it, this hasn't happened for a thousand years...we need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people till we defeat them or chase them back to their caves, or in other words, get rid of them."
Another prominent Republican Congressman, Tom Tancredo, who quit presidential race in early primaries, has repeatedly suggested that the United States should bomb the holy sites of Mecca and Medina to "send a message to the terrorists."
Earlier in September 2007, Giuliani's political advisor Republican Congressman Peter King from New York stated that "unfortunately, there are too many mosques" in the Untied States and accused Muslims of not cooperating with law enforcement. At the same time, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ruled out the possibility of a Muslim serving in a Cabinet level position.
Riding the ebbing wave of post-9/11 fear mongering in an election season is nothing new. It is no more than playing off with the ignorance of a few voters worth jeopardizing the American values of pluralism and constitutional democracy.
It is all too easy to use hot-button terms to garner votes and exploit fear or stereotypes for political gain. Making false statements for political gain only serves to increase the already high rates of violence and bigotry against Muslim Americans.
Islamophobia, which may be defined as "alienation, discrimination, harassment and violence rooted in misinformed and stereotyped representations of Islam and its adherents," has already created an atmosphere of suspicion among the fellow Americans towards the Muslims. In this Islamophobic charged atmosphere, it is not surprising that thirty-two percent Americans believe that their fellow citizen Muslims are less loyal to the U.S., as reported in a July 2007 Newsweek Poll.
The rhetoric against Islam and Muslims clearly seeks to alienate and disenfranchised the seven-million strong Muslim American community and feeds into the dangerous climate of Islamophobia.
Islamophobic comments in the election campaign are damaging to the Muslim American community. They are symptomatic of a culture that continues to treat Muslims as suspects and not as equal citizens in this country.