Tea Party affiliates in the Republican Party are at it once again, spewing nonsensical accusations at U.S. lawmakers and targeting both Democrats and fellow Republicans in the halls of power. The drama currently playing out in Washington revolves around an unfounded claim by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) that Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide, Muslim-American Huma Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and is infiltrating the highest echelons of U.S. power on its behalf. When the first Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison defended Abedin, Bachmann responded by accusing him of the same conspiracy.
To be clear, the Muslim Brotherhood is not a fringe, extremist entity in the Arab World. Today, by virtue of their electoral wins, the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots have become the leading political party in several Arab countries. The U.S. government has already reached out to create diplomatic ties with the Brotherhood in countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. Regardless, Bachmann put forth a baseless conspiracy theory about the penetration by a foreign entity of the U.S. government.
This is not about Huma Abedin. It is not about Keith Ellison. This is about the atmosphere of fear and hate that is once again being propagated in the highest levels of our American government. Tens of lawmakers can come to the defense of the character and professionalism of Abedin. But, those who will feel the ripple effects of these statements include millions of Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, and other Brown Americans who are typically lumped into the category of being “Muslim,” Middle Eastern,” or “Arab.”
It has been repeatedly noted in the media that Bachmann and her associates have embarked on a very dangerous Mccarthyist campaign, a Muslim witch hunt of sorts. Based on the immediate reactions that came out of Washington, it seems the hunt is set to end before it even begins. But the possibility for negative consequences for Muslim, Arab, and Middle-Eastern Americans are very real. At the very least, it reproduces the feeling that there is a natural antagonism between America and American Muslims, that Muslims cannot be part of their own country. This of course is absurd. But in the worst case scenario, it normalizes this type of profiling against Muslims.
This is a community that is still trying to recuperate from profiling and exclusion. And, as the ethnicities of Abedin and Ellison reveal, the Muslim American community is diverse and encompasses a broad spectrum of races, practices, and socio-economic backgrounds. This is nothing new. During every election season, this theater plays out on the stage of U.S. politics. Most of us helplessly watch and offer disapproving head shakes and a few words of dissatisfaction. In the current situation, policymakers, including Republicans, -have stepped up to the plate to reject this language. However it remains unchanged that every four years, Brown and Black American communities bear the brunt of a brutal political power play in which their names and reputations are dragged through the mud.
During the 2008 presidential elections campaign, President Barack Obama had to dodge “accusations” of being Muslim or affiliated with Muslims. It was one thing to reveal the truth: Barack Obama is not a Muslim. But in the process, what was the message that was sent to America’s Muslims? They were, once again, the community that no one wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole. And it took Republican Colin Powell to address the real issue: In this back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, somewhere both parties came to the consensus that Muslims were undesirables.
We are once again upon election season. Some analysts are predicting that this fiasco will cost the Republican Party a large portion of the Muslim and Arab vote, and may mean Romney’s loss of the presidential bid. But this is not likely the situation that will tip the scale further against Romney in 2012 when it comes to how Arabs and Muslims will vote.
The Republican Party’s right wing has become so conservative (in the form of the Tea Party) that their discrimination umbrella has at different points included Muslims, Blacks, immigrants, homosexuals, and women, among others. Republicans have isolated Muslim and Arab voters over a long period of time. Those who were going to turn against the Republicans already did after the so-called War on Terror that targeted their communities across America.
The latest attack on Muslims and Arabs is just another in a long line of instances of hate-mongering propelled by members of the Republican Party. And if more mainstream, reasonable party members do not take the reigns and attempt to regain control over their image, they will continue the scramble to reproach their own members over slandering other Americans.