The New Red Scare: Why Muslims Aren't Republicans Anymore
Since 9/11, fear of Muslims infiltrating our sacred American democracy has become the new Red Scare, and it continues to taint the 2012 election season. The latest comment comes from a frequent offender Newt Gingrich: Earlier this week, he said the widespread misconception that Barack Obama is a Muslim "should bother the president." He defended those who incorrectly believe Obama is Muslim: "It’s not because they’re stupid," he said. "It’s because they watch the kind of things I just described to you. When you have every bishop in the Catholic Church say this administration’s at war with their religion, you don’t think that has an impact?"
But in Republicans' efforts to appeal to older, white, conservative voters, they're alienating another voting bloc. Frontline recently compiled a range of statistics about American Muslims, and found that an overwhelming 78 percent of them voted Republican in the 2000 presidential election, with only a thin sliver voting Democratic. Since 9/11, those numbers have flipped: The percentage of American Muslims who “lean toward the GOP” is just 11 percent.
Muslim Americans generally have pretty traditional values—many of them are religious, fiscally conservative, and believe strongly in the immigrant "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality. Yet they're steering clear of a party that drums up fear and paranoia about their religion to score political points. They've also been staying away from the voting booth altogether. Muslims report relatively low levels of civic engagement, especially among young people who have come of age in a post-9/11 era; according to a 2009 poll by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, only 51 percent of young Muslim Americans are registered to vote, one of the lowest percentages among the groups surveyed.
Muslims feel that no candidate has their best interests in mind—and it's not hard to see why. The post-9/11 policies Bush implemented and Obama upheld likely sting just as much as the GOP's anti-Muslim rhetoric. The PATRIOT Act gave the government an enormous amount of power to racially profile Muslim Americans. Just this week, the American Civil Liberties Union released documents showing that federal agents have been profiling Muslims in Northern California for at least four years, attending services at local mosques under the guise of "community outreach" in order to gather information. Perhaps the saddest thing about the United States' growing discrimination against Muslims is that it has alienated ordinary Americans from engaging in the very democratic system we claim to protect with our Islamophobic, anti-terrorist policies.