This time around, Michele Bachmann (R - Minn.) seems to have bitten off more than she can chew. Bachmann’s recent diatribe against Huma Abedin, wife to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D - NY) – as being a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer has rightly drawn criticism from top Republican leaders including John McCain, Rep. Mike Rogers and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (D - Minn.). Bachmann is said to have indicated that Abedin, who is a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has family ties to Muslim Brotherhood.
While one can always say cite the First Amendment rights to free speech as a constitutionally mandated right to speak one’s mind; this is a slippery slope when someone’s loyalty and character are questioned. It is further reprehensible that Bachmann singled out Abedin because of her religion.
Religion and politics have come together in a deadly cocktail in this presidential campaign, as several candidates, especially from the far-right have used religion ( in particular singling out Muslims) for bashing. It is surprising how main-stream it has become to equate all Muslims with extremists, and Islam with terrorism.
As a friend recently joked to me that we have a Mormon and Muslim running for president, I realized how misleading and dangerous this discourse can be.
This recent pushback against Bachmann is a welcome move, and should be seen in the broader context of the political discourse and growing Islamophobia. It is rare that so many senior Republican leaders have come out against bigotry and fear-mongering. While McCain has had a solid track-record of defending President Obama, when he was attacked as being secretly Muslim, the fact that others have come out to defend actual Muslims is quite extraordinary.
At a recent town hall meeting that I attended, (which was organized by Karama, a civil rights advocacy group, and other prominent Catholic and Jewish groups), I heard three questioners, who seemed to be the Tea-Party types question the speakers as to why the panelists (comprised of leading legal experts) were sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood’s views.
It is as if anything that is related to Muslim issues can be easily labeled “foreign” or “other” and hence not friendly or even inimical to the U.S.’s interests.
Ellison, who was speaking at Islamic Relief’s Ramadan reception on Wednesday night made a subtle reference to Bachmann saying “We are in the greatest country in the world. We are a country which is free and respect people of all religions and ethnicities. The proof of this is that we are objective people. We demand evidence before passing judgment on others but some people seem to forget this”.