In U.S. elections, fear of Muslims

By Bernd Debusmann
October 23, 2008

(Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the summer of 2006, a Gallup poll of more than 1,000 Americans found that one out of four favoured forcing Muslims in the United States, including U.S. citizens, to carry special identification. About a third said Muslims living in the U.S. sympathized with al Qaeda.

Almost a quarter said they wouldn’t want a Muslim as a neighbour. Republicans, the poll said, saw Muslims in a more negative light than Democrats and independents, and were more opposed to having Muslim neighbours. Fewer than half those polled thought U.S. Muslims were loyal to the United States.

A few months after the poll, callers to a Washington area radio talk show suggested branding Muslims with crescent-shaped tattoos and special stamps in their identity papers, the better to spot potential terrorists.

Polls are snapshots of attitudes, and attitudes can change. But incidents during the U.S. presidential election campaign, now in its final sprint towards November 4, show that fear and suspicion of Muslims persist undiminished and are being used as a political weapon.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell became the most prominent member of the U.S. establishment to highlight the problem when he broke with John McCain, the Republican candidate and a personal friend of decades, to endorse Barack Obama, target of a prolonged campaign by activists who portray him as a Muslim.

One of his reasons: “I’m troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the (Republican) party say,” he told a television interviewer this week. “And it is permitted to be said such things as ‘well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian.

“But the really right answer is, what if he is?” Powell continued.

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion ‘He (Obama) is a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

It was the first time that a senior figure of the American establishment had countered suggestions that Obama adheres to Islam by saying “So What?”, a question that should not be surprising in a country of immigrants that prides itself of its diversity. But the association is so toxic that even Obama himself has never asked that question.

Obama routinely denies the false notion that he is Muslim and stresses his commitment to Christianity and his regular church attendance. The website Obama has set up to rebuff a wide range of rumours notes the fact that he was sworn into the Senate on his family bible. That he finds it necessary to spell this out speaks volumes about a climate of fear and bigotry.

And about Obama’s caution: the first Muslim to win a seat in the 435-member House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, caused a storm of cyberspace criticism when he carried a Koran to his 2007 swearing-in ceremony. The hubbub subsided when it emerged that the Koran he used was once owned by an American with impeccable credentials – Thomas Jefferson.

Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, was the only Muslim in the House until last March, when he was joined by Andre Carson, a fellow Democrat from Indianapolis. Estimates of the number of Muslims in the United States range from 1.8 to more than 5 million. (The U.S. Census Bureau does not cover religious affiliation).

As the long election campaign neared its end, an obscure New York-based non-profit group called the Clarion Fund provided a textbook example of how fear of Muslims can be used for political ends.

The fund paid 70 newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia to deliver, as an advertising insert, 28 million copies of a documentary on radical Islam. These are all swing states where the Obama vs McCain fight is close.

The one-hour documentary, entitled Obsession – Radical Islam’s War against the West — was produced almost three years ago. It intersperses scenes of violence, including the September 11, 2001, attack on New York, with footage from Nazi rallies. The film found no traditional distributor and was first screened on college campuses last year, introduced by a right-wing activist, David Horowitz.

So why is the DVD mailed out now? Purely for educational purposes, according to a spokesman for the Clarion Fund. Nothing to do with fear-mongering.

The DVD’s sleeve, however, carries a slightly different message. “The threat of radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today. But it’s a topic that neither the presidential candidates nor the media are discussing openly. It’s our responsibility to ensure we can all make an informed vote in November.”

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The people who should fear Muslims are other Muslims. Al Qaeda and other Muslims extremists have killed tens of thousands of Muslims in Iraq.

In 2005 Human Rights Watch issued a report on deaths in Iraq. I have taken the word ‘victims’ from the report and replaced it with the more accurate word,’Muslims’:

Attacks in 2003

August 7 – A truck bomb outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad kills sixteen Muslims and injures more than fifty.

August 19 – A suicide bomber in a truck demolishes U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing twenty-two people, including U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello, and wounding more than 150 Muslims.

August 29 – Car bomb kills at least eight-three Muslims at the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, including Shi`a Muslim leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim.

October 27 – A truck bomb explodes outside the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Baghdad, killing twelve. Bombs at three police stations in the city kill at least twenty-three more Muslims.

Attacks in 2004

January 18 – Suicide car bomber kills at least twenty-five Muslims, mostly Iraqi civilians, at entrance to the main U.S. headquarters in Baghdad.

February 10- Suicide car bomb explodes in a police station in al-Iskandariyya south of Baghdad, killing fifty-three Muslims.

February 11 – Suicide car bomb explodes outside an Iraqi army recruitment center in Baghdad, killing up to forty-seven Muslims and wounding fifty.

March 2 – More than 181 Muslims are killed and 573 are wounded when multiple blasts erupt in Baghdad and Karbala while Shi`a pilgrims are observing `Ashura’, the holiest day of the Shi`a calendar.

April 20 – Insurgents fire twelve mortar rounds into Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. According to U.S. military officials, the attacks kill twenty-two Muslim prisoners and wound ninety-two.

April 21 – Car bombs outside three Iraqi police stations and a police academy in Basra kill sixty-eight Muslims, including sixteen children, and wound 200. Nine of the sixty-eight victims were police.

April 24 – Fourteen Iraqi Muslims are killed when insurgents fire mortars and rockets into a crowded market in Baghdad’s Sadr City.

April 24 – A roadside bomb in al-Iskandariyya kills fourteen Muslims traveling to Baghdad on a bus.

June 17 – A car bomb kills thirty-five Muslims and wounds more than 100 outside an army recruiting station in Baghdad.

June 25 – A wave of attacks by insurgents in six cities kills more than 100 Muslims and wounds more than 300. In Mosul, sixty-two Muslims die and 220 are injured from car bombs at the police academy, two police stations and a hospital, although it is not clear how many of the victims were civilians.

July 14 – A suicide car bomber blows himself up at the gates of the U.S.-fortified Green Zone, killing at least ten Iraqi Muslims and injuring dozens.

July 28 – A suicide car bomb kills sixty-eight Muslims and wounds fifty-six in Ba`quba intended for men lined up outside a police recruiting center.

August 1 – Coordinated car bomb attacks on five churches, four in Baghdad and one in Mosul, kill eleven Muslims and wound more than forty.

August 26 – A mortar attack on a mosque in Kufa kills twenty-seven Muslims and wounds sixty-three.

August 27 – Unidentified gunmen fire into a group walking on the main road from Kufa to Najaf, killing fifteen Muslims.

September 14 – A car bomb near a police station in Baghdad kills at least forty-seven Muslims and wounds 114 in a nearby market. Recruits were lining up out the station to sign up for the police.

September 30 – Insurgents detonate three car bombs in Baghdad’s Hay al-‘Amel neighborhood as U.S. soldiers hand out candy for the opening of a renovated water pumping station, killing forty-one Muslims, thirty-four of them children.

October 10 – A suicide car bomb near the Oil Ministry in Baghdad killed an estimated ten Muslims.

October 15 – A suicide bomber in a car explodes near a police station in Baghdad, killing ten Muslims, including a family of four.

October 23 – Insurgents capture and execute forty-six Muslims from the Iraqi armed forces and three drivers taking them home for the weekend on leave.

October 31 – A rocket slams into a hotel in Tikrit, killing fifteen Muslims and wounding eight.

November 11 – A car bomb explodes just after a U.S. patrol passes, killing seventeen Iraqi Muslims and wounding thirty.

December 3 – A car bomb kills at least fourteen Muslims outside a Shi`a mosque in Baghdad and heavily damages the mosque.

December 16 – An explosion outside a Shi`a shrine in Karbala kills ten Muslims and wounds forty-one, including Grand Ayatollah `Ali al-Sistani’s representative in the holy city.

December 19 – A suicide car bomb in Najaf, 300 yards from the Imam Ali shrine kills and wounds more than 120 Muslims. On the same day, a car bomb explodes at Karbala’s bus station, killing fourteen Muslims and injuring at least forty.

December 27 – A suicide car bomber kills thirteen Muslims outside the offices of SCIRI, one of the main Shi`a Muslim political parties, in Baghdad.

December 28 – Twenty-eight Muslims are killed in an explosion that flattens several houses in Baghdad, apparently when a police unit was lured into a trap laid by exremists.

Attacks in 2005 (through mid-September)

January 19 – A suicide car bomb explodes near a police station in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood, killing an estimated eleven Muslims.

January 21 – A suicide car bomb blows up outside a Shi`a mosque in Baghdad killing fourteen Muslims and wounding forty

January 30 – Insurgents execute at least nine suicide bombings on Iraq’s election day, killing at least thirty-five Muslims.

February 7 – Suicide bombers kill at least twenty-seven Muslims in two Iraqi cities; outside a Ba`quba police station and a Mosul hospital.

February 7 – A suicide car bomb kills fifteen Muslims and wounds seventeen outside the main police headquarters in Ba`quba.

February 8 – A suicide bomber killed twenty-one Muslims waiting to sign up for the Iraqi police and wounded twenty-seven in Baghdad.

February 11 – A car bomb kills at least twelve Muslims and wounds forty outside a Shi`a mosque in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad.

February 11 – Masked gunmen kill at least ten Muslims at a bakery in a Shi`a area of Baghdad. It remains unclear if the attack was by insurgents or the result of a tribal dispute.

February 12 – A suicide car bomber kills seventeen Muslims outside a hospital south of Baghdad.

February 18 – A suicide bomber kills fifteen and wounds twenty-four as Shi`a Muslims celebrate the religious festival of `Ashura’in a procession to al-Kadhimiyya mosque in southern Baghdad.

February 28 – A suicide car bomb attack on a crowd of mostly Shi`a police and army recruits in al-Hilla kills 125 Muslims and wounds about 130. Most of the dead were police and army recruits, but civilians from the market across the street were also killed.

March 10 – A suicide bomber strikes a Shi`a mosque during a funeral in Mosul, killing at least forty-seven Muslims and wounding more than 100.

April 20 – Nineteen Muslims are found executed in a stadium in Haditha.

April 24 – Two bombs kill fifteen Muslims and wound fifty-seven near the Shi`a Ahl al-Bayt mosque in Baghdad.

May 1 – A car bomb kills at least twenty-five and wounds more than fifty Muslims at the funeral of Sayyid Talib Sayyid Wahhab, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, in Tal Afar.

May 4 – A suicide bomber kills forty-six Muslims and wounds about 100 as they are waiting to sign up for the police in Arbil.

May 5 – A suicide bomber blew himself up outside an army recruitment center in Baghdad, killing thirteen Muslims and wounding fifteen.

May 6 – A suicide car bomber kills fifty-eight Muslims and wounds 44 more at a vegetable market in the mostly Shi`a town of Suwayra.

May 11 – A suicide bomber kills at least thirty-one Muslims and wounds more than sixty-six in Tikrit.

May 11 – A suicide bomber kills thirty-two Muslims and wounds more than forty outside a police and army recruitment center in Hawija.

May 15 – Police find the bodies of twelve Muslim men killed execution-style in northeastern Baghdad, thirteen bodies in eastern Baghdad, and eleven more near al-Iskandariyya.

May 23 – Two suicide car bombs kill fifteen Muslims outside the home of Hasan Bagdash, a Turkoman politician, in Tal Afar. Bagdash survived the attack.

May 23 – A suicide car bomber kills at least ten Muslims and wounds thirty outside a Shi`a mosque in al-Mahmudiyya.

May 23 – A car bomb kills eleven Muslims and wounds more than 110 outside a Baghdad restaurant popular with the police.

June 2 – An explosion at a restaurant in Tuz Khormatu kills twelve Muslims.

June 3 – A suicide bomber kills ten Muslims and wounds ten more at a home in Sa`ud, a remote village near Balad.

June 7 – Three explosions in and around Hawija kill thirty-four Muslims; the deadliest kills ten people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of town.

June 11 – Gunmen open fire on a minibus in Diyara, killing eleven Muslim construction workers.

June 14 – A suicide bomber kills twenty-three Muslims outside a bank in Kirkuk, among them some pensioners.

June 19 – A suicide bomber detonates his charges in a popular Baghdad restaurant during lunchtime, killing twenty-three Muslims.

June 20 – A suicide bomber kills fifteen traffic police officers and wounds 100 Muslims in Arbil.

July 2 – A suicide bomber with explosives hidden beneath his clothing targets a police recruitment center in Baghdad, killing sixteen Muslims and wounding twenty-two.

July 10 – An attacker detonates an explosive vest outside a Baghdad army recruitment center, killing twenty-five Muslims and wounding forty-seven.

July 13 – A suicide car bomb explodes next to U.S. troops handing out candy and toys to children, killing thirty-two Muslim children and one U.S. soldier.

July 16 – A suicide car bomber detonates his explosives underneath a propane tanker that insurgents had hijacked and parked near a Shi`a mosque south of Baghdad. At least ninety-eight Muslims die and 156 are wounded.

July 24 – A suicide car bomber kills twenty-five Muslims and wounds thirty-three others near al-Rashad police station in Baghdad. Iraqi police are among the casualties but most of the victims are civilians.

July 29 – At least forty-eight Muslims are killed and fifty-eight wounded in a suicide bomb attack on an army recruitment center in the northern town of Rabi`a.

August 17 – Three car bombs near the Nadha bus station in Baghdad and at the nearby al-Kindi Hospital kill up to forty-three Muslims.

September 14-15 – More than one dozen car bombs and suicide bomb attacks in Shi`a neighborhoods of Baghdad killed nearly 200 Muslims. htm

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Replace the words:

Replace “Jew” with “Muslim”

Replace “Reichstag Fire” with “9/11″

Replace “Reichstag Fire Decree” with “The Patriot Act”

Replace “Auschwitz” with “Guantanamo”

Replace “Insurgent” with “Resistance”

Replace “Facism” with “Corporatism”

Replace “Nazi” with “Republican”

Replace “Bush” with “Hitler”

Replace “McCain with “McBush”

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A burden of one’s choice is not felt

there s no point being afraid of muslims, they are part of the society too..