The puerile, nightmarish clown car of Republican presidential candidates has been choking on the sour, stale fumes of Islamophobia. Current frontrunner Donald Trump recently stated that he “wouldn’t be opposed” to literally creating a registry of Muslims in America, presumably so he can have a list of people to, uh, treat nicely, or—yeah, let’s not even think about what Trump would do in collaboration with the NSA.
“You sign them up at different places,” he said. “It’s all about management.” When asked if the registry plan differed significantly from Nazi Germany, Trump said, “You tell me.”
In October, Ben Carson, a manual savant on the most untoward book tour of the twenty-first century, proudly announced out of the echoing chambers of his fuzzy little brain that a Muslim could never be trusted in the presidency. Recently, he compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”
It’s precisely this level of uninformed (or worse, pandering) bigotry that has made Trump and Carson come out far ahead in the race. Give the GOPeople what they want! Which is, apparently, Islamophobia. According to polls that admittedly probably skew this statistic on the higher end, somewhere from 43 to 54 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim; what do you think the percent of Republicans who believe that hypothetical is anti-presidential might be?
With essentially unanimous support from Republicans, the House of Representatives has followed suit, approving, via the Guardian, “the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which would require the secretary of homeland security, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence to each certify that a refugee was not a threat to national security before they were admitted to the United States.”
All the while, governors of our shittiest states are trying to pretend they can interfere with federal resettlement programs for Syrian refugees. We’ve come a long way since even 2008, when John McCain had the baseline honor to firmly deny the obviously lowest-common-denominator rumor that Obama was “an Arab.”
It’s in this stunningly gross context that Saba Ahmed, former Democratic political candidate and current president of the Republican Muslim Coalition, recently took a star turn on Fox News. In conversation with Megyn Kelly and Trump spokesperson Katrina Pearson, Ahmed addressed the “proposition” that mosques be shut down after terrorist attacks. She spoke very calmly and rationally, while her American flag hijab sat on her head like:
Ahmed, her hijab and I spoke on the phone on Thursday.
So, where did you get the very tight hijab?
I just found it on a street cart in Times Square, it was nothing fancy—there’s so much patriotic stuff all over New York City.
Was it just a scarf stand?
No, the cart was selling all sorts of flag memorabilia: they had bandannas, flag pins.
Had you worn that hijab before?
With my friends and stuff, yes. But never on TV.
When did you decide to wear it on TV?
I decided to wear it after seeing others on Fox News display their patriotism.
Right, and usually with the tone of old white men at a country club watching Fourth of July fireworks and wishing for the good old days before civil rights. The image of you was perfect: so straightforward and so subversive.
What’s the reaction been like?
Overwhelmingly positive. There’s been some hate mail, but that’s just part of going on Fox. Mostly I’ve gotten good feedback, and a lot of it is from Americans who have served in the military—their messages in particular have been very touching.
You were formerly a Democrat, right? Can you tell me about switching parties?
I switched parties in 2011. I ran for office in Oregon, and during the campaign, I was asked about my views frequently. The more I answered and the more I studied my party platform, the more I realized that I aligned with Republican values more than Democratic ones. I couldn’t justify abortion, for example, with what Islam preaches.
So I changed parties, although it’s been very challenging. They haven’t exactly been welcoming.
Yeah. It’s interesting to me—and cool—that you’d choose a party that agrees with you on almost everything but strongly disagrees about the value of your own identity. It’s also interesting to me, as someone who grew up in Texas, how Christian conservatives wildly fear Islam when there are so many places where the religions align.
We have so much more in common with Republicans. We have conservative values: pro-life, in favor of traditional families.
How many people are involved with the Republican Muslim Coalition?
We have a small staff of 5-6 people, and we work with various coalition partners.
Who’s your candidate?
I haven’t picked my candidate, but we’re trying to work with all of them. All of them are pretty much the same when it comes to Islam—in other words, bad—but we want to change their perspective. We’re going to step up our media efforts.
What’s in the works?
I would love to host presidential candidates at a mosque. None of them have gone to a mosque; they talk about it so ignorantly. I want to reach out. I have met with a few presidential candidates, and I hope to continue meeting with them.
Would you meet with Trump?
Yes. I want to host him at Friday prayers. I want him to see how we pray.
To learn more about the Republican Muslim Coalition, visit their website.
Image via screengrab
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