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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) as Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorses him at a rally at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa January 19, 2016. Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters

Palin’s endorsement fails to excite Trump rallygoers

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) as Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorses him at a rally at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa January 19, 2016. Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) as Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorses him at a rally at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa January 19, 2016. Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters

By Emily Flitter

Reuters

NORWALK, Iowa – When it comes to influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential race, Sarah Palin’s star power is turning out to be dimmer than expected.

There was no ecstasy in the crowd when the former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee endorsed Republican front-runner Donald Trump at a rally in Ames, Iowa, on Tuesday night. And at Trump’s next appearance on Wednesday in Norwalk, people who came to see him – both hard-core Trump supporters and undecided voters – said Palin was not swaying them.

“They’re going to have to do an image remake of her,” said Joani Estes, 56, of Indianola, Iowa. Estes said her Pentecostal Christian faith made her feel aligned with Palin, but it did not make her feel any more strongly about Trump. She liked him, she said, and was likely going to caucus for him during the state’s nominating contest on Feb. 1 – but she was also keeping the door open for his closest rival, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Her friend Jenny Terrell, 55, said Palin’s endorsement made her less certain about her support for Trump. A longtime Democrat, Terrell said she had been inspired by Trump but was put off byPalin’s extreme opposition to abortion rights.

“I was a little disappointed,” she said, adding that even though she knew Trump had declared himself to be against abortion, she did not see him as being as fervently anti-abortion as Palin.

As a strategic move in Trump’s competition against Cruz in Iowa, getting an endorsement fromPalin made sense, political experts said. She is popular among tea party Republicans who rail against the political establishment, as well as blue-collar evangelical Christians, two groups from which Cruz draws strong support.

It is not yet clear whether evangelical leaders in the state will follow Palin’s lead and choose Trump over Cruz. But Trump had already managed to draw some of those voters with his brash, sweeping talk of keeping refugees out of the United States, building a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration, and putting education policy back in the hands of local communities.

“I could care less” about Palin’s support for Trump, said Scott Heckart, 49, who said he had made up his mind to caucus for the billionaire businessman and former reality TV star.

Even Andrew Haup, 26 – who said he decided to support U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, only after McCain made Palin his running mate – said her endorsement mattered little to him since he had already made up his mind to support Trump.

Near the back of the room where Trump spoke on Wednesday morning, Matt Burns, 47, a Cruz supporter, stood alone. He said he had only come to see Trump because his teenage daughter had asked him to take her. He said he liked Palin and was not angry at her for choosing Trump over Cruz, but said her choice was not going to sway him.

“For me it doesn’t really do a whole lot,” he said. “I think most people know who they’re going to caucus for.”

 

Thomas Jefferson.  Photo credit:  Creative Commons

A secret Muslim president? Been there, done that.

Thomas Jefferson.  Photo credit:  Creative Commons

Thomas Jefferson. Photo credit: Creative Commons

By Stephen Prothero
USA Today

In a Republican primary season that has stoked fears of the undesirables and the undocumented in our midst, it now seems to be the Muslims’ turn.

Last week, Donald Trump let slide the comments of a man at a New Hampshire town hall meeting who called President Obama a Muslim, described Muslims as “a problem in this country,” and suggested it was time to “get rid of them.” On Sunday on Meet the Press, Ben Carson described Islam as inconsistent with the Constitution and said he “absolutely would not agree” with putting a Muslim in the White House.

When questioned about these controversies, neither man backed down. Trump tweeted that he was not “morally obligated to defend the president.” Carson told The Hill that the next president should be “sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Quran.” Repeatedly, Carson raised the specter of Muslims lying about their own faith in order to achieve their political aims — a notion many “birthers” have used to explain how a president who repeatedly calls himself a Christian could somehow be a secret Muslim.

Unfortunately, none of this is new. Americans like to think of our country as a nation of immigrants and a nation of religions, but repeatedly we have failed to live up to our ideals, banishing fellow citizens from the American family because of their ethnicities or religious commitments.

Throughout U.S. history, Protestants have denounced Catholics as fake Christians, amoral villains and traitors to the nation. In an argument that anticipated today’s critiques of Islam, inventor Samuel Morse argued in 1835 that the ideal of religious liberty served as a Trojan horse secreting enemies of the nation “into every nook and corner of the land.” This “infallibly intolerant” Roman Catholic tradition, he argued, wasn’t even a religion; it was a nefarious political scheme masquerading as one.

But anti-Catholicism was not the only culture war prosecuted by conservative defenders of faith and flag. Mormons, too, were targeted as slaves of a religious despot whose liberty was incompatible with our own. Before this culture war was over, Mormon leaders would be sued, jailed, beaten, stripped naked, tarred and feathered, and murdered. And rank-and-file Mormons would be chased from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois to the Utah territory.

Today, it is easy to imagine that Barack Obama is the first U.S. president to be accused of being a Muslim. But that honor actually belongs to Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson’s face now adorns Mount Rushmore, but in the election of 1800, Federalist partisans of John Adams viciously denounced Jefferson as un-American, principally because of his unorthodox faith, which ran more toward deism and Unitarianism than toward evangelical Protestantism.

One Federalist called Jefferson the “great arch priest of Jacobinism and infidelity.” The Connecticut Courant suggested he might be a secret Jew or Muslim. It complained that no one seemed to know “whether Mr. Jefferson believes in the heathen mythology or in the alcoran (Quran); whether he is a Jew or a Christian; whether he believes in one God, or in many; or in none at all.”

There was talk at the founding of turning the United States into an officially Protestant nation, and during debates over the Constitution, some in the states raised the specter of a Catholic, “infidel,” or “Turk” (an epithet for “Muslim”) holding office. But the founders wisely decided on a godless Constitution with no religious tests for national office.

This expansive design has served the country well. It has not prevented Americans from imposing their own religious tests for political office, or from waging cultural warfare on religious minorities, but in the long run these disputes have typically been resolved in the direction of liberty. We no longer worry that Vice President Biden is a Catholic, that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, or that Ben Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist. In fact, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., made history in 2007 by becoming the first Muslim member of Congress and took his ceremonial oath with a Quran once owned by Jefferson.

Although our candidates are sometimes mum in the face of religious bigotry, our values cry out against it. On this question, Carson’s own church is clear. Its website states that “the Seventh-day Adventist church strongly believes in religious freedom for all people.” Happily, Americans have traditionally said “Amen” to that. As the ongoing culture war on Islam proceeds, will Trump and Carson do the same?

Editor’s note: Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University, is the author of the forthcoming book Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections). His views are his own.

17-40

Three Million Could Lose Jobless Pay in Impasse

By Robert Pear, The New York Times News Service

2011-12-21T002027Z_1_BTRE7BK00YB00_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-USA-CONGRESS-BOEHNER

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pauses as he speaks to the media after the House vote on the Senate version of the payroll tax cut extension on Capitol Hill in Washington December 20, 2011.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Washington – More than three million people stand to lose unemployment insurance benefits in the near future because of an impasse in Congress over how to extend the aid and how to offset the cost.

Jobless benefits have been overshadowed by debate on a payroll tax cut, but have become a huge sticking point in negotiations on a bill that deals with both issues.

Republicans would continue aid for some of the unemployed, but would sharply reduce the maximum duration of benefits and impose strict new requirements on people seeking or receiving aid.

Democrats said these changes made no sense at a time when 45 percent of jobless workers had been unemployed for more than half a year and the average duration of unemployment — 41 weeks — was higher than at any time in 60 years.

Jon D. Grandstaff, 50, who lives in a suburb of Tulsa, Okla., said Tuesday that he had been watching the debate in Congress with trepidation, worried that his jobless benefits would be exhausted on Jan. 9.

“This mess in Congress is so upsetting,” Mr. Grandstaff said in an interview. “I don’t know who to blame — House, Senate, Republicans, Democrats. They are toying with people’s lives. I’m getting really scared and nervous.”

Mr. Grandstaff said he was making $43,000 a year when he was laid off in March from the collections department of a major cellphone company. Now he is working at a part-time job for $8 an hour and hoping the position will lead to full-time work.

Brenda G. Crosier, 52, of Northglenn, Colo., outside Denver, is also at risk of losing extended unemployment benefits. She said she applied for five to eight jobs a week but rarely received responses, and in a telephone interview Tuesday she had this question for Congress:

“Why are you leaving for Christmas vacation? If you worked for a company and you did not have your work done, you would not be walking out the door. You have no business leaving until your work is finished.”

Major provisions of the federal unemployment insurance program begin expiring in the first week of January, and people would begin to feel the effects over the next several months. By mid-February, the Labor Department estimates, 2.2 million workers would have lost jobless benefits, and by the end of March, 3.6 million will be affected.

People in states with the highest unemployment rates would be among the hardest hit.

The cornerstone of the program, regular unemployment insurance benefits, provides up to 26 weeks of assistance financed by the states. In states with high unemployment, jobless workers may be able to get up to 73 weeks of additional benefits, financed by the federal government, for a total of 99 weeks of aid. House Republicans would reduce the maximum to 59 weeks.

“This reflects a more normal level of benefits typically available after recessions,” said Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said: “I don’t see why you have to go more than 59 weeks. In fact, we need some incentives for people to get back to work. A lot of these people don’t want to work unless they get really high-paying jobs, and they’re not going to get them ever. So they just stay home and watch television. I don’t mean to malign people, but far too many are doing that.”

The Senate version of the payroll tax bill, passed with bipartisan support on Saturday, would continue paying jobless benefits under current law for two months, while lawmakers tried to figure out a longer-term solution.

House Republicans said they wanted a full-year extension, with additional requirements to prevent abuse of the program. They would require most recipients of jobless benefits to search for work and to pursue G.E.D. certificates if they had not completed high school.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, said the Republican proposals amounted to “the most drastic attack on the unemployment system” in 75 years.

House Republicans would also allow states to require drug testing as a condition of getting benefits. Democrats said such tests were an insult to the unemployed, because they implied that many were lazy drug abusers.

“I don’t see anyone in the Republican majority demanding drug testing for folks who receive oil and gas subsidies,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina.

But Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, said, “People who are unemployed should be looking for a job and should not become voluntarily ineligible by taking illegal drugs.”

Democrats say the program has reduced poverty and helped stabilize the economy, reducing the depth of the last recession. Republicans say the benefits have led some people to reduce their efforts to find new jobs.

Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, said: “The problem is not a lack of effort for those seeking a job. The problem is a lack of jobs.”

House Republicans said they had borrowed ideas from the jobs bill [4] that President Obama sent Congress in September. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the president’s proposal would probably reduce the maximum length of unemployment benefits to 79 weeks, from the current 99, in many states.

Republicans would allow states to get waivers from many federal standards and requirements, including one stipulating that money from state unemployment taxes must be spent on jobless benefits.
Democrats see the waivers as a threat to the fabric of the unemployment insurance system. But Republicans said that, instead of just writing benefit checks, federal and state officials must do more to help people get back to work.

“In this uncertain economy, using unemployment dollars to subsidize the training of a new employee to re-enter the work force is just good public policy,” said Representative James B. Renacci, Republican of Ohio.

This article, “Three Million Could Lose Jobless Pay in Impasse,” originally appeared at The New York Times News Service.

13-52

The Candidates on Islam

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, Muslim Chaplain, Attorney and Political Analyst

2011-11-23T013356Z_410979054_LM2E7BN04CK01_RTRMADP_3_USA-CAMPAIGN-DEBATE

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), stand at attention during the singing of the national anthem during the CNN GOP National Security debate in Washington, November 22, 2011.

REUTERS/Jim Bourg

As republican voters near the time to elect their presidential candidate for the 2012 election, the candidates’ respective religious perspectives become significant to many. One topic that does not escape public scrutiny is the candidates’ stand on Islam and Muslims in America. It has become an important issue that calls the attention of both Muslim and non-Muslim voters. Noticeably some candidates appear not to realize that the American Muslim community has a significant number of political conservatives sympathetic to many issues within the Republican Party platform.

The GOP presidential hopefuls’ stand on Islam and Muslims has been varied. Their stands have ranged from being thoughtful and considerate to being discourteous, rude and unappreciative of the history, losing potential support.

Some candidates have clearly opted to try to win votes by denigrating Islam and disparaging Muslims. Taking the lead in the anti-Muslim frenzy is Herman Cain, who has consistently held a hostile discourse on Islam, belittling almost anything or anyone resonating Muslim. Among many instances we may take as example Cain’s opposition to the construction of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., unreasonably arguing that it’s not religious discrimination for a community to ban a mosque. On this same line, Cain has also affirmed that he wouldn’t appoint Muslims to his cabinet and even suggested to impose a loyalty test on any Muslim before allowing him to serve in his administration.

His anti-Muslim rhetoric returned recently when he expressed that more than half of American Muslims are extremists based on a “trusted adviser” who informed him so.

Rick Perry has wisely distanced himself from the bigoted rhetoric and instead has a history of good and positive relations with the Muslims community. Perry endorsed Texas public high school teacher education programs on Islamic history. As governor he signed a Halal Law, which makes it a criminal offense to sell Halal and non-Halal meat in the same store without specifically labeling the two and to misrepresent non-Halal meat as being Halal. Governor Perry has held constructive ties with the Muslim Aga Khan’s community and hosted their world known leader on his visit to Texas. He followed up by attending the inauguration of their Ismaili Jamatkhana Islamic Center in Sugar Land, Texas in 2002; and later laid the first brick for another of their centers in Plano, Texas in 2005. On the other hand, Perry’s ties to the rest of the mainstream Muslim community as a whole are scarce, and his posture is mostly perceived as neutral, with neither “pro” nor “against” community stances.

Mitt Romney’s relations with the American Muslim community have not been smooth. Recently, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the presidential hopeful for the ouster of Dr. Walid Phares a recently appointed foreign policy adviser to his team. Phares authored “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America” and also acts as an advisor to the U.S. Congress on the Middle East. According to CAIR he worked as an official in the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia, and other militias that reportedly took part in various massacres of Muslims. The controversial appointment has certainly created a wave of controversy within the American Muslim community that waits for Romney to take their concerns into consideration.

Newt Gingrich’s stance on issues related to American Muslims and Islam has been scornful. Falling victim to the Muslim hysteria on the debate on the Ground Zero Mosque, Gingrich compared the Islamic Community Center project to building a Nazi monument outside the Holocaust Museum. This was clearly a very insensitive position that will take more than a simple apology — not that it is expected — to amend.

Michele Bachmann has not demonstrated a capacity to engage the American Muslim community neither shown capacity to understand and respect diversity. Her comments on the civil uprisings that took place in France back in 2005 were very discomforting: “Those who are coming into France, which has a beautiful culture, the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population in France, they are losing Western Europeans, and it’s being taken over by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad, but they are not assimilating.”

Rick Santorum has joined Gingrich’s Islam-bashing team, expressing misleading comments on the question of sharia taking over the U.S. court system. On the most recent debate Santorum was even more assertive on his opinion on Muslims. When asked if he would support ethnic and religious profiling he replied: “The folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes … obviously Muslims would be someone you’d look at, absolutely.”

Among all candidates, libertarian leaning Ron Paul seems to be the one who have consistently pronounced himself distant from any expression that could be construed as Islamophobic. He issued firm statements condemning Pastor Terry Jones’ controversial call for a “Burn the Quran Day.” In September 2010 Paul stated: “This blame of all Muslims for the atrocities of 9/11 only makes things worse — especially since it wasn’t the Taliban of Afghanistan that committed the atrocities.” More recently, on a CBS interview, Paul said that al Qaeda itself cited American intervention in the region as its motivation for attacking the U.S. and “to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we’re free and prosperous I think is a very, very dangerous notion because it’s not true.”

John Huntsman is another candidate that for the most part has rejected to take a ride on the Islamophobia train that most republic candidates not only designed but are now fueling and giving hand-detailed maintenance.

The comments and actions that vilify Islam and Muslims — or any other religion and its practitioners — by the Republican Party presidential hopefuls show an evident betrayal of commitment to the freedom of religion consecrated in the U.S. Constitution. Exploiting Muslims for political gain will undoubtedly alienate them from a significant section of the voting public who hold religion dear to their hearts.

Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

13-50

Islam-Baiting Doesn’t Work

By Stephan Salisbury for TomDispatch

During the 2010 midterm election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties. In the wake of those elections, with 85 new Republican House members and a surging Tea Party movement, the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric as a means of rousing voters and alarming the general electorate have gone largely unchallenged. It has become an article of faith that a successful 2010 candidate on the right should treat Islam with revulsion, drawing a line between America the beautiful and the destructive impurities of Islamic cultists and radicals.

“Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years: Islam-bashing wins votes,” wrote journalist Michael Scott Moore in the wake of the 2010 election. His assumption was shared by many then and is still widely accepted today.

But as the 2012 campaign ramps up along with the anti-Muslim rhetoric machine, a look back at 2010 turns out to offer quite an unexpected story about the American electorate. In fact, with rare exceptions, “Islam-bashing” proved a strikingly poor campaign tactic. In state after state, candidates who focused on illusory Muslim “threats,” tied ordinary American Muslims to terrorists and radicals, or characterized mosques as halls of triumph (and prayer in them as indoctrination) went down to defeat.

Far from winning votes, it could be argued that “Muslim-bashing” alienated large swaths of the electorate — even as it hardened an already hard core on the right.

The fact is that many of the loudest anti-Muslim candidates lost, and for a number of those who won, victory came by the smallest of margins, often driven by forces that went well beyond anti-Muslim rhetoric. A careful look at 2010 election results indicates that Islamophobic talking points can gain attention for a candidate, but the constituency that can be swayed by them remains limited, although not insignificant.

A Closer Look

It’s worth taking a closer look. In 2010, anti-Muslim rhetoric rode in with the emergence that July of a “mosque” controversy in lower Manhattan. New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, facing indifference to his candidacy in the primary race, took up what right-wing anti-Muslim bloggers had dubbed “the Mosque at Ground Zero,” although the planned cultural center in question would not have been a mosque and was not at Ground Zero. With a handy alternate reality already sketched out for him, Lazio demanded that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, then state attorney general, “investigate” the mosque. He implied as well that its leaders had ties to Hamas and that the building, when built, would somehow represent a threat to the “personal security and safety” of city residents.

A fog of acrid rhetoric subsequently enshrouded the campaign — from Lazio and his Tea Party-backed opponent, Carl Paladino, a Buffalo businessman. Paladino beat the hapless Lazio in the primary and was then handily dispatched by Cuomo in the general election. Cuomo had not joined the Muslim bashing, but by the end of the race, dozens of major political figures and potential Republican presidential candidates — including Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry — had denounced the loathsome Mosque at Ground Zero and sometimes the whole of Islam. What began as a local issue had by then become a national political litmus test and a wormhole to the country’s darkest sentiments.

But the hard reality of election results demonstrated one incontrovertible fact. Both Lazio and Paladino, heavily invested in portraying Muslims as somehow different from everyone else, went down to dismal defeats. Nor could these trouncings simply be passed off as what happens in a relatively liberal northeastern state. Even in supposed hotbeds of anti-Muslim sentiment, xenophobic rhetoric and fear mongering repeatedly proved weak reeds for candidates.

Take Tennessee, a state in the throes of its own mosque-building controversy (in Murfreesboro) at the height of the 2010 campaign.

There, gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey couldn’t slam Islam often enough. Despite raising $2.7 million, however, he went down to defeat in the Republican primary, attracting only 22 percent of the vote.

During the campaign, Republican victor Bill Haslam, now governor, simply stated that decisions about mosques and religious construction projects should be governed by local zoning ordinances and the Constitution.

In another 2010 Tennessee race, Lou Ann Zelenik, a Tennessee Republican congressional candidate and Tea Party activist, denounced the Murfreesboro mosque plans relentlessly. Zelenik ran her campaign like an unreconstructed Indian fighter, with Muslims standing in as opponents in a frontier war. As she typically put the matter, “Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them.”

It didn’t work. Zelenik, too, was defeated, attracting 30 percent of the vote in a three-way primary race; the winner, state Sen. Diane Black, edged her out with 31 percent. Black declined to denounce the Murfreesboro mosque project and went on to win the general election.

Islamophobic Failures Around the Country

The impotency of anti-Muslim rhetoric was not some isolated local phenomenon. Consider this: in the 2010 election cycle, anti-Muslim Senate candidate Sharron Angle was defeated in Nevada, and the similarly inclined Jeff Greene lost his Senate bid in Florida. A slew of congressional candidates who engaged in anti-Muslim rants or crassly sought to exploit the Mosque at Ground Zero controversy also went down, including Francis X. Becker, Jr., in New York, Kevin Calvey in Oklahoma, Dan Fanelli and Ronald McNeil in Florida, Ilario Pantano in North Carolina, Spike Maynard in West Virginia, and Dr. Marvin Scott in Indiana.

Not all candidates bad-mouthing Muslims failed, of course. Renee Ellmers, a nurse running in North Carolina’s 2nd District, won her race by about 1,500 votes after airing an incendiary television spot that likened the lower Manhattan cultural center to a “victory mosque” and conflated Islam with terrorism. But Ellmers’ main campaign talking point was the abomination of health-care reform. That “victory mosque” was only a bauble-like embellishment, a dazzling attention grabber.

Similarly, Republican Rick Scott, running for governor in Florida, featured a deceptive television ad that referred to the New York project as “Obama’s mosque” and, like Ellmers’s ad, seamlessly fused Islam, terrorism, and murder. Tea Party favorite Scott, however, had a slight advantage in gaining a victory margin of about one percentage point over Democrat Alex Sink: he poured a staggering $73 million of his own money into the race in which he largely painted Obama as an anti-business incompetent. Despite lavishing more personal cash on the race than any candidate in Florida history, Scott won by less than 100,000 votes, falling short of 50 percent of the total. He was only the second Florida governor to take office without the backing of a majority of the electorate.

If some virulent political rhetoric was credited with bringing victory to candidates at the time, its effect in retrospect looks more questionable and less impressive. Take the victorious campaign of Republican Allen West for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. A Tea Party favorite quick to exploit anti-Muslim fears, he was also a veteran of the Iraq War and had been fined by the Army for the beating and threatened killing of an Iraqi prisoner.

During the campaign, he made numerous statements linking Islam with terrorism and weighed in loudly on the proposed Manhattan Islamic center more than 1,000 miles away. In an open letter to his opponent, two-term incumbent Democrat Ron Klein, he noted that “the mosque symbolizes a clear victory in the eyes of those who brought down the twin towers.” Klein then caved and joined West in opposing the cultural center, claiming that Ground Zero should only be “a living memorial where all Americans can honor those who were killed on September 11, 2001.”

In the election, West reversed the results of his 2008 race against Klein and ever since, his victory has been seen as one of the triumphs of anti-Muslim trash talking. A look at the numbers, however, tells a slightly different story. For one thing, West, too, had a significant financial advantage. He had already raised more than $4 million as the campaign began, more than four times his total in 2008 and twice as much as Klein. Much of West’s funding came from out-of-state donors and conservative PACs. For all that money, however, West won the election by not “losing” as many votes as Klein did (when compared to 2008). In 2010, West won with about 115,000 votes to Klein’s 97,000; in 2008, when Klein had the funding advantage and a presidential year electorate at his back, he beat West, 169,000 to 140,000.

Off-year elections normally mean lower turnouts, which clearly worked to West’s advantage. His victory total amounted to about a third of the 2008 total vote. And there’s the point. The motivated, far-right base of the Republican Party/Tea Party can, at best, pull in about a quarter to a third of the larger electorate. In addition, West became the Definer: He blocked out the issues, agitated his base, and got people to the polls. Klein ceded the terms of the debate to him and failed to galvanize support. Did anti-Muslim rhetoric help West? Probably. Can it work in a presidential election year when substantial turnout ensures that the base won’t rule? Unlikely.

Nevertheless, candidates on the right are already ramping up the rhetoric for 2012. Herman Cain, the pizza king who would be president, is but one obvious example. He says he may not know much, but one thing he knows for sure: when he’s elected, no Muslims will find their way into his administration.

As he put it in an interview with Christianity Today, “Based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.” Cain told the Web site Think Progress that he’d brook no Muslim cabinet members or judges because “there is this creeping attempt, there’s this attempt to gradually ease Shariah law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.”

Before a national television audience at a recent Republican presidential debate, however, Cain proceeded to say that he really hadn’t said what he had, in fact, said. This is called a “clarification.” What he meant, Cain reassured television viewers, was that he would only bar disloyal Muslims, the ones “trying to kill us.”

It almost seems as if candidates defeated in 2010 when using over-the-top anti-Muslim rhetoric are expecting a different outcome in 2012. Lawyer Lynne Torgerson in Minnesota is a fine example of this syndrome. In 2010, she decided to take on Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, pounding him relentlessly for his supposed “ties” to “radical Islamism.”

“And what do I know of Islam?” she wrote on the “issues” page of her 2010 campaign Web site. “Well, I know of 911.” Alas for Torgerson, the strategy didn’t work out so well. She was crushed by Ellison, garnering only 3 percent of the vote. Now, Torgerson is back, her message even more extreme. Ellison is no longer simply tied to “radical Islamism,” whatever that may be; he has apparently used his time in Congress to become a “radical Islamist” pushing, she claims, nothing less than the adoption of “Islamic Shariah law.”

Shariah Is the New Mosque at Ground Zero

Shariah has become 2012’s Mosque at Ground Zero, with about 20 states considering laws that would ban its use and candidates shrilly denouncing it — a convenient way, presumably, to keep harping on nonexistent, yet anxiety-producing, “threats.” Since no one knows what you’re talking about when you decry Shariah, it’s even easier than usual to say anything, no matter how bizarre or duplicitous.

So be prepared to hear a lot about “Shariah” between now and November 2012.

Going forward, a few things seem clear. For one, the Islamophobic machinery fueled by large right-wing foundations, PACs, individuals, and business interests will continue to elaborate a virtual reality in which Muslim and Islamic “threats” lurk around every American corner and behind every door. It is important to realize that once you’ve entered this political landscape, taking down anti-Muslim “facts” with reality is a fool’s errand. This is a realm akin to a video game, where such “facts” are dispatched only to rise again like so many zombies. In the world of Resident Evil, truth hardly matters.

But bear in mind that, as the 2010 election results made clear, that particular virtual reality is embraced by a distinct and limited American minority. For at least 70 percent of the electorate, when it comes to anti-Muslim slander, facts do matter. Failure to challenge the bogus rhetoric only allows the loudest, most reckless political gamer to set the agenda, as Ron Klein discovered to his dismay in Florida.

Attacks on the deadly threat of Shariah, the puffing up of Muslim plots against America, and the smearing of candidates who decline to make blanket denunciations of “Islamism” are sure to emerge loudly in the 2012 election season. Such rhetoric, however, may prove even less potent at the polls than the relatively impotent 2010 version, even if this reality has gone largely unnoticed by the national media.

For those who live outside the precincts where right-wing virtual reality reigns supreme, facts are apparently having an impact. The vast majority of the electorate seems to be viewing anti-Muslim alarms as a distraction from other, far more pressing problems: real problems.

Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a TomDispatch regular.

In Support of Rick Snyder

By Muslim Snyder Campaign Volunteer

May and June 012 - 2010 For the first time, Michigan Muslims are active in the upcoming primary elections to be held Tuesday, August 3.  This is a great opportunity to impact the political landscape. Michigan Muslims should not allow their choice of political candidates to be selected by others.  Voting in the primary election assures Michigan Muslims that friendly candidates will appear on the November general election. 

Getting active in the primary election will ensure that Michigan Muslims have a “halal no bacon” candidate pool to select from in the general election in November
Moreover, Michigan Muslims are fortunate on two fronts in the upcoming Primary Elections. 

One, Michigan is an open primary state.  This means that no political party affiliation is required.  Michigan voters may select either Democratic or Republican candidates in the primary election, however, no cross voting is permitted.  In the November 2, 2010 general elections, voters may cross over and vote for any mix of candidates including Democrat, Republican, other party or independent.

The second fortunate situation for Michigan Muslims is there is an ideal gubernatorial candidate that serves Michigan best interests and understands the Muslim community — Rick Synder, “the tough nerd.”

Rick Snyder is ex-Chairman/CEO of Gateway Computers.  He took it from a small company in 1991 (less than 800 employees) to a Fortune 500 (10,000+ employees in 1997). Like most of us, he is a self made person.  Rick grew up in a working class section of Battle Creek in a 900 sq. ft home, but by age 23, he graduated from U-M with 3 degrees (BA, JD and MBA). 

__1200_05 Rick Snyder is the co-founder of Ann Arbor SPARK, a very successful business accelerator, incubator, and networking organization that he wants to use as a model for the State.  Rick Snyder wants to increase incentives for legal immigration, as he believes legal immigrants will boost the economy and create jobs.

Rick does not want to apply a band-aid to Michigan’s problems.  Instead he wants to bring real world business experience to Lansing.  He is the only candidate (both Democrat and Republican) refusing to accept contributions from special interest groups.  No unions, no PACs.

For the upcoming gubernatorial primary election, Michigan Muslims must employ a voting strategy as both Michiganders and Muslims.  Most of us came to Michigan because of its robust economy.  We raised families in Michigan, established roots and laid the foundation for a dynamic Muslim community.  If Michigan’s economy does not thrive then our children will leave Michigan and thus leave behind our mosques and schools. 

Creating more and better jobs is the number one issue for Rick. Michigan needs businesses to start, grow and flourish in order to be a great state again. Rick will make that happen.

Michigan Muslims have a chance on Tuesday, August 3 to decide the political menu.  Voting for the best candidate who happens to be a moderate Republican is the best choice and best strategy.

On the Democratic side, most agree that either candidate will be friendly to the Muslim community.  Unfortunately the polls show any that Democratic candidate loses to any Republican candidate in the general Michigan election on November 2, 2010. Michigan Muslims should be on the winning side and vote for Rick Snyder.

Therefore, should we vote for a friendly Democratic Party nominee, who will likely lose in the November elections, or should they vote for the best moderate Republican candidate who is a job creator?

Vote Rick Synder in the August 3 Primary election.

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Farouk Shami To Vie For Democratic Party Nomination To Run For The Governor Of Texas

Picture AD History was made this past week, when famous Owner of Farouk Systems (Brand: CHI-USA) Farouk Shami, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur, announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party Nomination to run for the Governor of Texas. Since James Pinckney Henderson of Democratic Party became the first Governor of Texas on February 19, 1846, Thirty-Nine (39) Governors of Texas have come from Democratic Party; Six (6) from Republican Party; One (1) Unionist; and One (1) Independent [Sam Houston]. If nominated by Democratic Party and then elected, Farouk Shami will become the 48th Governor of Texas. More details at www.FaroukForGovernor.Com

Amidst slogans of “Farouk – Farouk: Yes We Can – Yes We Can”, under the huge white tent in the parking lot of Farouk Systems, Mr. Shami announced that he will be vying for the nomination of his Democratic Party on March 02, 2010 during the Texas Primaries, to run for the Governor of Texas in November 2010. Other candidates within Democratic Party include businessman Tom Schieffer, Fort Worth; schoolteacher Felix Alvarado, Fort Worth; rancher Hank Gilbert, Tyler; and satirist Kinky Friedman, Austin.

Farouk Shami tabled his issues during the campaign to be: Spending more money to make people of other States of USA and countries look at Texas as the place with the highest standard of education (not merely on the basis of standardized examinations); Support entrepreneurship by lowering tariffs and as such creating manufacturing jobs for Texans along the Texas-Mexico border and utilizing the skills and zeal of both Americans and Mexicans; Make Texas a State that exports Food; Reforming Health Care; and Preserving the Environment.

Attendees at this event said they are supporting Farouk Shami because despite several odds against him, he has always persevered to not only succeed himself, but also bring positive change to the lives of thousands. We do not need a career politician to be the next Governor: We need a problem solver; a person who understands the grassroots issues of diverse communities of Texas; and has a track record of providing practical solutions for our problems here in Texas: Mr. Shami is that person and most interestingly the present Governor of Texas Rick Perry has publicly acknowledged that.

Based on the past experience, it is estimated that a minimum of $10 million will be needed to run this campaign (if not $20 million) and Farrouk Shami, who has pledged to take a $1/Year Salary as Governor, is planning to some of his own and some of the money as donations from individuals of various communities.

The 2010 Texas gubernatorial election will be held on Tuesday, November 02nd, 2010 to elect the Governor of Texas, who will serve a four-year term to begin on January 15th, 2011. The winning candidate need only garner a plurality of votes, not a majority, to be elected Governor (as was the case with the 2006 election).
The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is elected on a separate ticket; as a result, the Governor-elect and Lieutenant Governor-elect may be (and have been) of different political parties.

Texas does not have term limits for its governors. As such, the incumbent Governor (Rick Perry), who has already set the record for total and consecutive time served as Governor, is free to seek re-election for what would be an unprecedented third four-year term (and has announced his intent to do so).

The Republicans and Democrats will select their nominees based on the results of primary votes held on March 02nd, 2010 (the first Tuesday in March) and, if needed, runoff elections will be held on April 13th, 2010 (the second Tuesday in April).

Perry has announced his intention to run for an unprecedented third consecutive four-year term in 2010. He faces a challenge in the Republican primary election from U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Wharton County Republican Party Chairwoman Debra Medina.

As for Farouk Shami, he has worked for decades in the field of hair-care products development, and attended cosmetology school at the University of Arkansas. He is notable for having invented the first ammonia-free hair-color, after developing an allergy to the chemical that initially led doctors to encourage him to leave his profession.

His company, the Houston-based Farouk Systems, currently employs 2,000 Americans, and exports its line of hair and skin care products under the BioSilk, SunGlitz and Cationic Hydration Interlink (CHI) brands to over 50 countries worldwide.

Shami plans to build a hair products factory in Palestine that will employ a projected 500 people.

On July 27th, 2009 Farouk Systems announced they will be bringing back jobs to America by opening a new plant in Houston that will employ approximately 5,000 people. They plan to market the products as made in the USA. Shami is a member of the board of the American Task Force on Palestine.

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