Who knows whether Islamophobes like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin actually believe their own rants. The sad thing is, they’re getting away with blatant nonsense. There are nearly 7 million hardworking, law-abiding Muslims in this country. They participate in virtually every sector of society and engage in vibrant interfaith efforts that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews to work for the common good. Yet most Americans know almost nothing about Muslims or Islam—not to mention the media, which loves apocalyptic battles, as long as the weapons of mass destruction are words.
But anti-Muslim ranting is more than a war of words. Hateful speech against Muslims and Islam puts our nation’s security at risk. Gingrich and Palin—and others like them—are playing into a dangerous “us vs. them” framework that terrorists use to prove the United States is fighting a global war against Islam. What better recruiting tool than Newt decrying Muslim civic engagement as a threat to American values? Or Sarah tweeting that a mosque near Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of 9/11 victims? (Never mind that Muslim Americans also died at Ground Zero.)
Anti-Muslim rhetoric is also a repudiation of America’s core values. Right after 9/11 President Bill Clinton walked through the Harlem neighborhood where his offices are. He pointed to nail salons, carryout shops, beauty salons, barber shops, restaurants—dozens of enterprises run by men and women from countries around the world who’d come to America for a better life for themselves and their families, and who were living and working side by side. That is what makes our country great, Clinton said—and what the terrorists wanted to destroy.
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