Nearly two dozen Republican governors moved Monday to close off their states to Syrian migrants as leading GOP presidential candidates outlined positions that would discriminate against Muslims seeking refuge in the United States.
Washington Post, 11/16/15
"You're going to have many more World Trade Centers if you don't solve it -- many, many more and probably beyond the World Trade Center”
The episode is a microcosm of how the 2016 campaign has played out . . . state party chairs, senators and conservative pundits . . . have all struggled with the question of how to deal with [Trump].
Trump's enduring ability to frame the terms of the debate for the GOP continues to have party leaders fretting he will drive voters to Hillary Clinton, help down-ballot Democrats and cause long-term damage to the Republican brand.
It occurred to me after the umpteenth op-ed about Donald Trump, more thermal rhetoric from Ted Cruz and other heat-seeking supplicants, that two groups of Americans have become the subject of unwarranted vilification in recent times – American Muslims and authentic, bona fide, conservative Republicans.
In both instances, it is the outliers in their ranks who generate the opprobrium or worse. In the world of Islam, it is the jihadis; and in the party of Republicans, it is the Freedom Caucus and current front-runners for the Party’s presidential nomination.
Some in hijab, some not.
First, Muslims in America (and elsewhere) are in a guilt-by-association box with the feral, savage soldiers and raw, purpose-seeking recruits of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and their criminal comrades. As their villainy increases and reaches around the globe from Paris to Baga, Nigeria and from Beirut to Bakersfield, California so, too, does the intensity of the fear they engender and the human instinct to protect, hunker down, lock doors, and quash civil liberties.
The concept of jihad as articulated by Muhammad in the Qur’an well before being expropriated by Islamic splinter groups, was not the business of beheadings, suicide vests, mass shootings, or the downing of airplanes:
By contrast, today’s jihadis are a specific breed – Jihadi-Salafis – Sunni Muslims who adhere to the strictest and most literal interpretations (i.e., violent, intolerant) of the Qur’an and the ahadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad not in the Qu’ran, new accounts and interpretations.) Despite their capacity to strike at will, they are a fraction, albeit blasphemous, of the whole.
Second, Republicans in America -- authentic conservative, bona fide Republicans -- are being tarred by the gratuitous rhetorical brushes of several presidential nominee hopefuls and other knights errant in the party, most notably their ‘narcissist-in-chief’ (who isn’t even a Republican.) As a result, mainstream party leaders shudder at the prospects of seeing ‘long-term damage to the Republican brand.’
If Republicans had to wear hijab, or some other identifying garb, one wonders if there might be more muscular impetus for party leaders to become animated, forthright, and courageous about quelling the coarse imprecations.
On that point, Friday’s Washington Post carried an essay by former Tennessee Senator and Republican National Committee Chair William Brock that is Exhibit A for ‘ more muscularity:’
Republican jihadis may well further tarnish an already-blemished ‘Republican brand,’ but that ought to be the least of concerns for responsible Republicans.
Instead, it is the capacity of this unabated heedless speech and willful name-calling to weaken the fiber of the republic itself that should be their primary consideration.
Those whose devotion to ideological purity, righteous indignation, and tasteless stagecraft takes precedence over concern for the commonweal can stretch democracies beyond their tensile strength, given enough time and attention.
It’s one thing to disagree about immigration policy and practices; it’s quite another to target individuals by ethnicity or religion.
It’s one thing to raise questions about the country’s visa waiver program; it’s quite another to offer legislation that targets ‘dual nationals from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and anyone else who has traveled to those countries in the past five years.’ [H. R. 158, a bipartisan vote, it must be noted]
And it’s one thing to suggest that the refugee review process be reexamined and strengthened. It’s quite another to call for legislation that would "terminate[s] all ongoing funding for any federal programs that seek to resettle refugees and/or migrants from Syria into the United States, effective immediately."
Or to suggest that not even ‘orphans under the age of five’ be admitted; or that there be a ‘religious test’ to determine which refugees would be admitted (Christian) and which not (Muslim.)
Despite the ringing of alarm bells by Republican governors who conjure up images of ‘boat people’ pouring into our harbors, the truth is that refugees undergo a comprehensive and time-consuming process – 6 to 18 months – before becoming eligible for entry.
It isn’t perfect; neither is it perfunctory.
Given the political frenzy into which jihadis who claim allegiance to the GOP have stirred so many in their ranks (and some ‘Reagan Democrats,’ I suspect,) it is beyond time for Republicans who have earned their bona fides in the Grand Old Party to make their voices heard and to take an active role in the censure and denunciation of radical, prejudicial voices who are practicing the lowest form of politics.
And as for the violent extremism and abject fear engendered by jihadis who claim allegiance to Islam, now is the moment for Muslim leaders in America (and elsewhere) to become more visible and vocal. This will require a sustained campaign of educational efforts and community outreach, including heightened presence on electronic media, social media, op-eds, speaking engagements at civic clubs and associations, participation in seminars on the Abrahamic religions, and other efforts that will heighten their profile and help build trust and cooperation in a country that has welcomed them for years, current circumstances notwithstanding.
To extend the phrase of the day:
If you see something, say something. And if your hear something, say something. And whatever you do, don’t be silent.
We’ve had enough trash talk from tough guys and the occasional tough gal. It’s time for all Americans to give thought to the ways in which the beast within us can be tamed.
Enough about jihadis, foreign and domestic. And about Republican renegades.
Make no mistake; there is much legitimate criticism that has been directed at President Obama’s leadership during these past few years with respect to U. S. policies and strategies in the Middle East. Unquestionably, he and his administration have made substantial errors (or worse) in dealing with the jihadi phenomenon and the organizations – ISIS and Al Qaeda -- that have prospered while civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen have created large swaths of ungovernable territory.
That’s a subject for a forthcoming TMR.
But for today, this is a call for bold leadership and supportive followership from the ‘responsible center’ of the Republican Party and the growing ranks of Muslims in America. With such efforts, good outcomes are possible. Without them, our divisions will grow deeper, our animosities more abusive, and our politics more pernicious.