Sunday, July 17, 2011

This Week in GOP Shenaniganism

It has been a banner week on the shenaniganism front for the field of 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls.

For starters, the controversial "Marriage Vow" being foisted upon the GOP field by conservative Iowa group The Family Leader received a bit of an edit after criticism erupted over a section of the pledge's preamble, which claimed two-parent African-American households were more common during slavery.

Via the Huffington Post:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
You've got to hand it to the folks at The Family Leader. It really says something about a group's level of commitment to a cause when their love of the particular institution of marriage allows them to gloss over the evils of the "peculiar institution" of holding humans in chattel slavery.

Michele Bachmann, an early signatory to the "Marriage Vow," also makes the shenaniganism short list this week, as reports began circulating about the staunch anti-Catholic views of her former congregation and denomination. Through June, Bachmann and her family were on the rolls at Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, part of the broader Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

As the Huffington Post points out,
"The denomination says on its website: "We identify the anti-Christ as the papacy. This is an historical judgment based on Scripture."
And just when you thought anti-Catholic sentiment was finally falling out of vogue! 

The identification of the supreme pontificate with the anti-Christ will no doubt come as a disappointment to the scores of homegrown American Islamophobes who have really been pushing a connection between Islam and the anti-Christ for the last few years. The search for a Muslim anti-Christ figure received some press in February, when Glenn Beck, the Clown Prince of Conservatism himself, hosted Joel Richardson, author of "The Islamic Anti-Christ," on his show for what was no doubt a bit of perfectly reasonable, thoughtful conversation.

Well, lest you think that Islamophobia has also become last week's fashion, Herman Cain was at it again this week, throwing his hat in the ring over the contentious construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN.  The mosque, an extension of an existing Islamic center that has existed in Murfreesboro for thirty years, has become the epicenter of a broader debate about the role of Islam in American society.

According to Cain:
"[The mosque] is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion, and I don't agree with what's happening, because this isn't an innocent mosque...This is just another way to try to gradually sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that."
As in his past tirades against Muslim-Americans, Cain failed to offer any particular examples of how the Murfreesboro mosque project, or Islam in general, is working to sneak, creep, or force Shariah law into the US justice system through any other similarly devious means. 

This is not Cain's first instance of blatant intolerance toward Muslim-Americans. Cain has repeatedly avowed not to appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or to the federal judiciary, a view which he rolled back only slightly during last month's GOP debate.

However, by getting involved in the Murfreesboro fracas, Cain has upped his Islamophobia to new, and decidedly more dangerous, heights. While Cain's anti-Islam antics might come across as little more than opportunistic grandstanding in a political environment still deeply permeated by fear and mistrust of the Muslim faith, Cain has to realize that by increasingly aligning his platform with anti-Muslim sentiment, he is putting the lives of American citizens at risk.

Murfreesboro, a small town in central Tennessee, is the home of a continuing controversy around the construction of a proposed Islamic center and mosque. The debate over the legality of the center's construction (opponents have actually submitted arguments to the court that the center should not be granted the same zoning permissions for land use as other religious institutions because Islam is not a real religion), has born witness to the very real consequences of the sort of ginned up, hateful rhetoric currently working its way through the Tennessee legislature.

In August, during the height of the controversy over the non-Ground Zero non-mosque, the construction site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was the target of an arson attack, followed soon after by reports of gunshots in the vicinity of the construction site. These events have reportedly left Muslims in central Tennessee living in fear for their safety, and compelled nearby mosques and other Muslim institutions to even request federal protection during prayer services.

Conservative politicians in Tennessee and the rest of the country must realize that their ignorant, opportunistic grand-standing on the issue of Sharia law doesn't take place in a void. Such bigoted, misguided rhetoric has consequences, and those consequences will be felt first and foremost by our nation's already victimized Muslim population. The arson attack in Murfreesboro is only one of an escalating number of recent anti-Muslim attacks across the country. So far these attacks have been limited to intimidation and the destruction of property, but if conservative lawmakers continue to use Islam and the trumped-up, imaginary threat of Sharia law as a whipping boy in order to rally their base, it is only a matter of time before one of the lashes cuts deep enough to earn conservative Islamophobia a body count.
Words have consequences. And while its often quite gratifying to work up a chuckle over conservative missteps, it remains vitally important that voices continue to be raised against even the most seemingly bizarre and trivial trends in conservative intolerance.

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