Ahmed Rehab argues that America is facing a battle between proponents
of dialogue and those who wish to stifle dialogue and replace it with
Why Does the GOP Seek to Silence American Muslims?
By Ahmed Rehab - director @ cairchicago.org
Is it possible for Muslim Americans to criticize our administration's
neoconservative foreign policies, our government's complicit role in
Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land, or our violations of
civil liberties, and not be branded as "apologists for terror"?
Since the 9/11 attacks, anti-Muslim hysteria has evolved from a
collective knee-jerk reaction to a coordinated cottage industry of
Baseless suspicion of Muslims - not actual wrongdoing - is now
apparently sufficient to demand that certain Americans be stripped of
the right to speak freely in our nation's beacon of democracy and
pluralism, the U.S. Capitol building.
Such was the demand made of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by members of
the GOP after it was "revealed" that the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR) would host an educational panel on the findings of
international public opinion polls.
Sound the alarm, the Muslims are coming.
While there has been a lot of media buzz about the controversy, one
obvious question has yet to be asked: what is an "apologist for terror"?
This loaded designation, leveled at CAIR by some in the GOP at the
behest of no more than an amateur blogger from Florida, is designed to
withstand quantification, or any form of objective assessment, and
therefore be beyond contention.
If CAIR's consistent condemnations of terrorism and the coordination
of a national fatwa against all forms of terror and religious
extremism is not enough to debunk that subjective designation, then
what is? Is endorsing the hawkish policies of this administration or
the oppressive treatment of the Palestinians by the state of Israel
the only option for political redemption?
It used to be that objective standards - otherwise known as the laws
of the land - were trusted to separate "the good" from "the bad" (more
scientifically classified as "legal" and "illegal").
Within the realm of civilized pluralistic democracies - where CAIR
fits comfortably - there ought to be respect for alternative
viewpoints that challenge traditional power centers via the spoken and
written word. The added hope is, of course, that the challenger would
not suffer vindictive retribution in the form of smear campaigns.
Uncensored, free debate should be honored, not repressed and muffled
only to be replaced with a classification system that permits some to
speak and orders others to keep silent.
Beating a law-abiding, law-promoting Muslim American organization with
the "terror stick" simply because it questions certain foreign and
domestic policies is an affront to the very foundations of American
democracy and an insult to all Americans.
The moment we allow our fears to overpower our common sense and our
common law is the moment extremists win. Our laws, not our whims and
suspicions, must be the ultimate arbitrator in our social contract.
At what point did the GOP decide to surrender the rights of American
Muslims to self-serving Internet bloggers?
It is shameful that some in the Republican Party seek to exploit the
apparent susceptibility of many of our fellow citizens to believe
anything negative about Muslims and their representative organizations
in order to score a political point against a rival party.
It is high time the polarizing tactics of fear-mongering and identity
politics are erased from our political handbooks.
Now more than ever, Americans need to be free to speak and free to be
heard. Since Republicans regularly use "freedom" as a buzzword, we
must remind them that freedom is not spelled "feardom."
Ahmed Rehab is executive director of the Chicago chapter of the
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest
Muslim civil liberties group.
Anyone interested in learning more about the false attacks on CAIR's
mission and history may visit:
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