In response to my questions for Tony Perkins about confronting anti-Muslim bigotry yesterday, Brian Tashman from Right Wing Watch pointed out that Perkins and the Family Research Council have dabbled in this subject before.
Here’s Tony Perkins on Parker Spitzer last year defending his comments that “Islam is evil.”
PERKINS: The teachings of Islam, when they’re taken as I just said – restate myself – when the teachings of Islam are taken literally, it is not like Christianity to love your neighbor, you’re to bring your neighbor into subjection and in those that have literally carried out the teachings of Islam, a great evil has been perpetrated on society.
And here’s an article by Professor William Wagner on the Family Research Council’s website promoting conspiracy theories about shariah law:
While our litigation and policy battles with the secular world keep our left flank occupied, the issue of Islamic theocracy amasses ominously on our rear flank. Immigrants from Muslim countries are moving in increasingly greater numbers to Europe and the Americas, many with the specific purpose of extending the “Abode of Islam.”
Gaining strength daily, the prospect of theocratic rule poses a growing threat to the free exercise of Christian conscience and constitutional governance. This regime, unlike our secular foe, claims the existence of a dogmatic deity where law, Islam, and the state are one. We must give serious intellectual attention to this matter, and raise our concerns publicly whenever necessary. Our singluar focus on secular challenges to God’s existence ill-prepares us to respond (in a constitutional context) to a stealth religious jihad by advocates of an authoritarian regime. Whether in the academic world, in the courts, or in the legislatures, this must change.
Needless to say, if these are FRC’s positions on Islam, reasonable conservatives should look elsewhere for faith leaders to combat anti-Muslim bigotry.
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Since Herman Cain’s political conversion experience (so to speak) after visiting with the leaders of a Virginia mosque this spring, Islam has taken a backseat as a campaign issue in the Republican primary contest.
While Rick Perry has good relationships with some Texas Muslim communities, he has thus far decided against highlighting this record to primary voters unlikely to reward him for it. Somewhat surprisingly though, his opponents have similarly declined to criticize his seemingly suspect anti-Muslim bona fides.
Apparently noticing the same thing, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) decided to start the attacks on his own with a broadside in The Daily Caller:
What is not yet as widely known about Perry is that he extends his taxpayer-funded compassion not only to illegal aliens but also to Muslim groups seeking to whitewash the violent history of that religion. Perry endorsed and facilitated the adoption in Texas public schools of a pro-Muslim curriculum unit developed by Muslim clerics in Pakistan.
Tancredo hits all the usual notes–implying connection to any Muslim group is inherently suspicious, quoting anti-Muslim extremist Robert Spencer, smearing conservative anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist as part of the Islamic conspiracy–and even cites the satirical headline of a Justin Elliot piece at Salon as literal support for his position.
But the most interesting thing about this development isn’t the substance of Tancredo’s attack–it’s his justification for why he’s launching it now. Tancredo, best known for his rabid anti-immigrant nativism, makes clear that the impetus for his column was Perry’s recent defense of his in-state tuition program for immigrant Texas students. Voters who dislike Perry’s position on that issue, Tancredo surmises, will be equally interested to know about this Muslim stuff.
This pairing, however, presents a real test for conservatives who have spent the last few years trying to counter accusations that their movement is held together by animus towards minority groups. Framing their arguments as based on economics and national security, they’ve been quick to castigate any suggestions that race plays into their positions on immigrants and Muslims.
But Tancredo doesn’t appear to care for such nuance. For him, compassion for immigrants and insufficient hostility towards Islam are just two sides of the same coin–a deep resentment over perceived preferential treatment for undeserving, untrustworthy “other” groups. The ideological battle over whether to indulge or reject this problematic impulse is one of the defining questions for the modern conservative movement.
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During yesterday’s press conference, Tony Perkins was asked about the horse-race topic du jour: Chris Christie. As Think Progress highlighted yesterday, Perkins offered Christie some praise but said he would have a tough time winning the votes of social conservatives, particularly because of some “questionable appointments.”
When asked to clarify, Perkins explained he was talking about cabinet appointees with whom the Family Research Council differs on abortion policy. But when a reporter in the room followed up by asking if Perkins meant to imply Christie’s appointment of Muslim-American judge Sohail Mohammed to a state bench was problematic, Perkins ducked the question:
REPORTER: Did Chris Christie’s appointment of a Muslim to the bench in NJ–is that a concern at all for social conservatives?
PERKINS: I have not heard much about that. I’m sure that it has created some concern among some.
Where Perkins was happy to speak confidently as a social conservative leader on other questions, he shrinks into a “neutral observer” voice in response to this one. Left unanswered is what Perkins himself thinks about his observation. Does he think such sentiments represent an affront to religious liberty — which FRC lists as one of its core issues? Is he concerned by the growing alliance between members of his community and those who propagate these smears?
The silence of conservatives like Perkins on the issue of anti-Muslim bigotry in America is one of the chief obstacles to marginalizing it. When high-profile leaders provide tacit endorsement or allows spurious attacks to go unchecked, fear-mongering extremists only grow more emboldened and influential.
Video from Think Progress
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As part of his tour through Germany, Pope Benedict met with Muslim leaders from the country at the Apostolic Nunziature in Berlin last week. Noting the growing religious pluralism in Germany, the Pope clearly established these changes as an opportunity to embrace rather than a threat to fear:
From the 1970s onwards, the presence of numerous Muslim families has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of this country. Constant effort is needed in order to foster better mutual acquaintance and understanding. Not only is this important for peaceful coexistence, but also for the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good in this society.
it seems to me that there can be fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims. In the process, we help to build a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past.
Specifically, the Pope lauded the German Constitution for helping make this collaboration possible:
We could ask ourselves how such a text – drawn up in a radically different historical epoch, that is to say in an almost uniformly Christian cultural situation – is also suited to present-day Germany, situated as it is within a globalized world and marked as it is by a remarkable degree of pluralism in the area of religious belief.
The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find particularly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify. In seeking this, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs; indeed for many of them, the real source of inspiration was the Christian vision of man. But they knew they had to engage with the followers of other religions and none
While specific to a different country, the Pope’s praise of these principles stands in sharp contrast to the Religious Right in the United States today. Under the leadership of activists like David Barton, many of these groups have been working hard to rewrite America’s similar history in order to justify their vision of a “Christian nation” whose laws are determined by a narrow, conservative interpretation of the Bible.
H/T Deacon Greg
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Earlier this month, Rachel Tabachnick wrote a story on The Oak Initiative, a Religious Right group that has partnered with right wing extremist Frank Gaffney to promote anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.
Tabachnick noted in particular that the vice president of the Initiative was evangelical leader Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. This revelation was surprising given Rodriguez’s previous vocal support for religious pluralism and against extremism.
Blogger Greg Metzger noted this apparent contradiction and approached Rev. Rodriguez about it. After Metzger read some of the anti-Islam propaganda the Oak Initiative was sponsoring, Rodriguez appeared to have a change of heart:
I found that Rev. Rodriguez was genuinely troubled by Tabachnik’s charges. He challenged some of the details of her story, but on the principal point–his relationship with the Oak Initiative–he agreed that there was cause for concern. He knew instinctively as I read to him the Oak Initiative’s views about Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood that this was an affront to what he wished to stand for.
Metzger reported that Rodriguez told him he would be denouncing this extremism and resigning from the board of the Oak Initiative. This step was a major victory in the fight against anti-Muslim extremism and a testament to the power of truth. When confronted with the full-throated extremism of people like Frank Gaffney, no person of good faith should be able to excuse or justify it.
But although Rodriguez indeed left the Oak Initiative, we haven’t yet seen a public denunciation of their extremism.
We appreciate Rodriguez’s admirable decision to distance himself from a group promoting fringe theories about Muslims, and hope this can be an opportunity for him and other people of faith to stand firmly against bigotry and the spread of harmful misinformation.
Photo credit: National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
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