Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke greets supporters near a polling place on the first day of early voting in Houston yesterday.
The 2018 midterm elections have seen a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric, a new report has found, as political campaigns are emboldened by Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.
The findings demonstrate the depth of anti-Muslim messaging ahead of the 6 November vote, tactics that echo attempts to inflame fears around immigrants and people of colour.
“We’ve seen anti-Muslim candidates running in every region,” said Scott Simpson, public advocacy director of Muslim Advocates, which commissioned the report.
“We’ve seen them running at every level of office, from the school and planning boards all the way to governor and Congress. We’ve seen it in liberal places and conservative places. “It has really taken root and become very widespread.”
The report examined more than 80 campaigns across the US run by candidates who have engaged in anti-Muslim campaign attacks over the last two years.
Almost all of the candidates are Republican.
Conspiracy theories targeting Muslims have increasingly entered the political mainstream.
The majority of the candidates openly targeting Muslims — 64% — are either elected or appointed officials or boast of a presidential endorsement.
More than a third have claimed that Muslims are inherently violent or pose an imminent threat, the report found, and have propagated the existence of a Muslim conspiracy to take over communities or infiltrate government.
Just under a third of the candidates considered have called for Muslims to be denied basic rights or declared that Islam is not a religion.
Many such attacks echo rhetoric used by Trump and other Republican presidential contenders in 2016, as anti-Muslim sentiment reached new heights within the party’s primary electorate.
Trump called for a ban on all Muslims coming to the US and flirted with the idea of a Muslim registry.
He also falsely claimed Muslims celebrated in New Jersey following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and openly declared that “Islam hates us”.
“Since the 2016 election, how easy it is for candidates to really use Islamophobic and hateful rhetoric as a part of their platform,” said Mohamed Gula, political director at Emgage, an organisation focused on electing more Muslims to public office.
“Whether you go to a masjid or are part of any institution within the Muslim community, you’re attached to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
That line of attack recently thrust a congressional race in California into the national headlines.
Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican, ran an attack ad suggesting his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, was a “security risk …working to infiltrate Congress”.
The television spot invoked Campa-Najjar’s Mexican-Palestinian heritage and claimed without evidence that he was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Campa-Najjar, who is Christian, told the Guardian the attack was “blatantly ignorant” and “unhinged from reality”.
The ad was also denounced by a bipartisan group of national security veterans as “racist and bigoted”.
Elsewhere, a Republican Super Pac has gone after a Democratic candidate, Abigail Spanberger, for her work as a substitute teacher at a Saudi-funded Islamic school in northern Virginia.
“What is Abigail Spanberger hiding?” the narrator asks in a TV ad funded by the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Spanberger doesn’t want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed ‘Terror High, a terrorist breeding ground.”
Spanberger taught at the school from 2002 to 2003, while awaiting a security clearance to work at the CIA.
She disclosed this and was granted two federal security clearances and dispatched to fight terrorism overseas.
There is some evidence that such attacks do not work.
Of the 80 anti-Muslim candidates identified in the research, only 11% to 14% — were elected or are safely projected to win in November.
“The rhetoric is not popular with American voters,” said Simpson.
“It is popular with a really isolated and very extreme part of the electorate that is very hostile to Muslims, that will parrot back the most out-of-touch conspiracy theories about American Muslims without even thinking twice.”
The sharp rise in Islamophobic campaigns comes as a record number of Muslim Americans seek elected office.
Gula said groups like Emgage believe the best way to counter anti-Muslim sentiment is to build a formidable presence in public office and as an electorate.
“Being able to rewrite and redefine what it means to be socially responsible and civically engaged within our communities is of huge importance,” he said.”We’ve seen a little over (100) Muslims run for office … That was once unheard of.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.