By Brigitte L. Nacos
Both the Anti-Defamation League which was founded nearly 100 years ago “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all" and the 40-year old Southern Poverty Law Center, founded to promote the Civil Rights movement and racial equality, are among the leading civil rights and human rights organizations. Both have long expanded their anti-discrimination work beyond their original devotion to Jewish and African Americans respectively. Most recently, both organizations have recorded the growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States and the growing incidents of violence against mosques and Muslim Americans.
In advance of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there have been plenty of manifestations of Islamophobia in America. Most disturbing is that the political mainstream is part of this anti-Muslim rhetoric. The following is an exchange between talk show host Glenn Beck and Herman Cain, Republican from Georgia and candidate for the presidential nomination, in June 2011:
BECK: You said you would not appoint a Muslim to anybody in your administration.
CAIN: The exact language was when I was asked, “would you be comfortable with a Muslim in your cabinet?” And I said, “no, I would not be comfortable.” I didn’t say I wouldn’t appoint one because if they can prove to me that they’re putting the Constitution of the United States first then they would be a candidate just like everybody else. My entire career, I’ve hired good people, great people, regardless of their religious orientation.
BECK: So wait a minute. Are you saying that Muslims have to prove their, that there has to be some loyalty proof?
CAIN: Yes, to the Constitution of the United States of America.
BECK: Would you do that to a Catholic or would you do that to a Mormon?
CAIN: Nope, I wouldn’t. Because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith than there is in these other religions. I know that there are some Muslims who talk about, “but we are a peaceful religion.” And I’m sure that there are some peace-loving Muslims.
When Cain’s remarks came up during the first debate of Republican presidential hopefuls on June 13, 2011 in New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, sided with Cain and went even further:
"Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, if you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period. 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.”
Just think for a moment how fellow Americans who happen to be Muslims must feel, when they hear even candidates for the presidency single them out for discrimination.
If you want to know how our Muslim neighbors and colleagues feel, click the link below for a short but gripping film clip: