Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is a man on the move. On Tuesday, he elevated himself from run of the mill Muslim basher to Muslim basher-in-chief (at least in terms of likely 2016 GOP presidential candidates). But alarmingly Jindal’s new rhetoric, if it goes unchallenged, could result in increased hatred, discrimination, and even potential violence against American Muslims.
Anti-Muslim fear-mongering by Republican politicians is nothing new. However, as I noted last week, with the Supreme Court likely deciding this term that marriage equality will be the law of the land, we Muslims could find ourselves in the GOP’s crosshairs more than ever before come the 2016 presidential race as some Republicans pivot from gay to Muslim bashing.
Unfortunately on Tuesday, Jindal proved me right—and I can assure you I would’ve preferred to be wrong. Jindal went on the Family Research Council’s (FRC) radio program, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as an extremist group for its vile anti-gay comments, to pander to its ultra right wing members. Apparently Jindal’s in the midst of touring the “Christian” right wing groups, because on Saturday he had given the keynote address to the equally hateful American Family Association.
While on the FRC’s radio show, Jindal repeated the baseless claim he first articulated a week earlierthat Muslims have set up “no-go zones” in Europe where non-Muslims are essentially barred from entering and Islamic law rules. How ludicrous is this claim? Well, Fox News apologized last week, not once but four times for making the same assertion and acknowledgedit was not true. Even the person who coined the concept of “no-go zones,” the well known anti-Muslim activist Daniel Pipes, admitted recently that no such Muslim only enclaves existed in Europe.
Anywhere Jindal shows up is quickly becoming a “no-truth zone.” But Jindal didn’t stop with simply talking about these dastardly Muslims in Europe. He added that “if we’re not careful, the same no-go zones you’re seeing now in Europe will come to America.”
So last week, there were fabricated “no-go zones” in Europe. And now this week, these zones that don’t exist in Europe may soon becoming to your neighborhood! By the way, if there ever are Muslim “no-go zones” in the United States, I will be happy to offer anyone who follows me on Twitter a “Muslim EZ-Pass” so you can quickly pass right through them.
Jindal then offered up the stale claim that Muslim American leaders have failed to denounce terrorism. Let me stop being PC (as Jindal himself wants us to do): Either Jindal is lying or is simply not bright enough to use Google. We have seen an avalanche of condemnations from Muslims leaders worldwide to the actions of Boko Haram, ISIS andAl Qaeda’s recent attack in Paris.
But these canards weren’t enough for Bobby. He then gave us the whopper. He claimed that Muslim immigration is part of an “invasion,” with the goal being to “colonize” America and impose Islamic law. Jindal added that Muslims, even American ones like me, “want to use our freedoms to undermine that freedom in the first place.”
I would typically make some snarky comment ridiculing Jindal for this type of idiocy. But I can’t. The stakes are too high. By telling people that Muslim Americans—not the terrorists or radicals- are plotting to destroy America from within is more than wrong, it’s potentially dangerous.
The words of elected officials can move people to act. At their best, politicians appeal to “the better angels of our nature.” They inspire Americans to fight for civil rights, for marriage equality, and more.
And then there the words like Jindal’s. Those appeal to the worst in people. By design they are intended to scare and divide Americans.
We saw countless examples of this type of hateful rhetoric during the battle for civil rights by pro-segregation politicians like Alabama Governor George Wallace that defended racism and demonized blacks. These comments serve to legitimize the hateful views of the bigots. And worse, possibly incite violence. For example, Wallace’s infamous 1963 speech pledging “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” came just months before the horrific bombing on September 15, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama of the 16th Street Baptist Church that took the lives of four young black girls.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Jindal’s rhetoric is at the level of Wallace and his brethren. Not yet, at least. But left unchallenged it could reach that point.
American Muslims are in precarious place in our country today. In large part that’s because of the acts of people like ISIS and Al Qaeda. But anti-Muslim sentiment is also ginned up by the professional bigots who make a living off hate, as well as by certain GOP officials.
Just look at the response by some to the film American Sniper. Not only were there hundreds of hateful comments posted on social media demonizing Muslims and Arabs by people who saw the film, but there were also threats of violence against Muslim Americans that were so serious the FBI is now investigating.
We have also seen a spike in attacks on Muslim houses of worship and schools in recent years. I’m talking incidents from a bottle filled with acid thrown at a Muslim school in Lombard, Illinois, to shots fired at a mosque in Coachella, California, to the burning down of an Islamic center in Joplin, Missouri. And the list goes on and, sadly, on.
Look, if Jindal does want to counter terrorists—Muslims or otherwise—I, along with other Americans, will be with him. But if Jindal is going to continue to blur the line between the terrorists and mainstream Muslims, and worse, stoke the flames of hate, the victims will not just be American Muslims. It will also be the same religious liberty that Jindal claims he cares so much about.