Friday Reads: Bigots on the RightPosted: January 30, 2015
I absolutely cannot believe the hatred coming out of the Republican Party and its christianist grass roots these days. It’s downright embarrassing that my Governor is leading the charge. There are so many of these stories at the moment that they certainly need the light of day given that we’ve just recognized the 70th anniversary of NAZI concentration camps designed for the Jewish, the homosexual, the intellectual, and others considered outcasts of their society.
This first disturbing piece comes from Texas where Texas Muslims gathered peacefully to recognize democracy and to teach their children about how we do things in this country. Unfortunately, many haters gave them the wrong lesson.
They came out by the hundreds from Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, mostly women and children, girls with silver-bowed shoes and pink owl backpacks. They sang the national anthem and prayed.
But less than 20 feet from where the group of Texas Muslims gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Austin, a small handful of protesters told them exactly how they felt about their visit.
“We don’t want you here!” shouted one. Others yelled, “Go home,” “ISIS will gladly take you” and “remember 9/11.”
“You don’t have to dress that way! Take it off!” came from a woman holding an Israeli flag. “Islam is the war on women!”
Earlier in the morning, Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, commented on the gathering.
“I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office,” she wrote on Facebook.
Thursday marked the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day in Austin, when hundreds of adherents of Islam visit the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and learn about the democratic process. This year, however, is the first that’s been marked by virulent anti-Islam protests, said Ruth Nasrullah, a prominent Muslim blogger from Houston who also hosted the event.
Christine Weick, who said she was originally from Michigan but now is “on the road,” at one point stormed the succession of speakers, grabbing the microphone and yelling, “Islam will not dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas.”
She was carted back to her spot with the other 12 to 15 protesters holding vigil behind a wall of law enforcement officers. “Muhammad is dead!” she and other chanted, referring to the Muslim prophet.
As the group of Muslims continued the event by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the interruptions persisted, with the protesters yelling, “Islam is a lie!” and “No Sharia here!”
Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, called the behavior “very frustrating.” Carroll said this was the first year protesters showed up since Muslim Capitol Day began.
“I’m more concerned with state leaders and what they say than I am about anybody else because they are the lawmakers,” he said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus asking whether White had violated ethics rules by instructing her staff to ask Muslim visitors to her office to declare their allegiance to the United States.
“Our ethics question is: Has Rep. White violated any House rules in creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities trying to meet with her or her staff?” the letter asks. “Are House members prohibited from making constituents take oaths before meeting with their elected representatives or House staff?”
In a statement, Straus said: “Legislators have a responsibility to treat all visitors just as we expect to be treated — with dignity and respect. Anything else reflects poorly on the entire body and distracts from the very important work in front of us.” His statement did not address the ethics complaint.
As of mid-morning, the Israeli flag was still on the desk in White’s office. By noon, she had released a follow-up Facebook post that added: “I do not apologize for my comments. … If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.”
But at 3 p.m., White released a new statement saying she welcomed “all of my constituents who would like to come and visit our office in the Texas State Capitol.”
“As law-abiding American citizens, we all have the privilege and the right to freedom of speech granted to us by the First Amendment,” she wrote. “… As a proud Texan and American I fully denounce all terrorist groups or organizations who’s [sic] intent is to hurt and destroy the great state of Texas and our nation.”
This was not the first time White has aired her concerns about Muslims on Facebook.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s bigotry has been over the top recently. He called for “cultural assimilation” suggesting that if every one acted white, everything would be just fine. However, he fails to look around the country to find there are many examples of non-Muslim people of faith who are not assimilated to the culturally white WASP majority. Peter Weber-writing for the Week–suggested Jindal take a look at Brooklyn where there are ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews that live and dress as their European ancestors have for many years.
“There is a way of thinking by many on the Left in America, which disturbs me greatly,” Jindal says: “The notion that assimilation is not necessary or even preferable.” Liberals, he adds, “think it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country. This is complete rubbish.”
Jindal says he believes that religious and ethnic groups make America stronger when they come to embrace America’s culture and values. But not every group qualifies:
Are they coming to be set apart, are they unwilling to assimilate, do they have their own laws they want to establish, do they fundamentally disagree with your political culture? Therein lies the difference between immigration and invasion….
To be clear — I am not suggesting for one second that people should be shy or embarrassed about their ethnic heritage. But I am explicitly saying that it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within. [Jindal]
Well, off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of groups in the United States that have established “a separate culture within” America, probably “fundamentally disagree” with America’s “political culture,” and are still an integral part of America’s rich cultural and religious tapestry.
The Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, don’t drive cars, use smartphones, or allow their members to wear synthetic fabrics. Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves a global movement and don’t serve in the U.S. armed forces or salute or pledge allegiance to the American flag; they also don’t accept blood transfusions, or celebrate Christmas or birthdays. And is Jindal really going to tell the Cajun and Creole communities in his home state to stop speaking Louisiana French?
If Jindal is serious about his idea, though, I have a challenge for him: Go to Brooklyn.
In Williamsburg, in Crown Heights, in Borough Park, there are sizable and growing insular communities, or “courts,” of ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews. They have their own customs, language (Yiddish), 19th-century style of dress, political and religious leaders, and, in some instances, laws. Women typically don’t have the same rights as men. The Hasidic communities of Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York and New Jersey have not assimilated to American culture.
Peter Beinart writes that Jindal “wants Christians to stand apart from secular society, but condemns Muslims who do the same.”
In London, Jindal said “non-assimilationist Muslims” threaten the West not merely because they support acts of violence, and not merely because they adhere to Islamic rather than national law. Most fundamentally, they pose a threat because they refuse to embrace the cultures of the countries to which they immigrate. Denouncing the left’s claim that “it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country,” Jindal insisted that “it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within.”
In his London speech, Jindal made little effort to define American or European culture except to associate it with “freedom.” So it’s hard to know exactly which aspects of it he believes Muslims refuse to embrace. But in his speeches last year on religion, Jindal discussed American culture at greater length. And his verdict was surprisingly harsh. “American culture,” he told students at Liberty University, “has in many ways become a secular culture.” Many churches, he declared, now espouse “views on sin [that] are in direct conflict with the culture.” In case students hadn’t gotten the message, Jindal repeated himself: “our culture has taken a secular turn.”
Then he asked a rhetorical question: “What do we do about it?” His answer: resist. People of faith, he argued, must recognize that they are fighting a “silent war” against the secular, liberal elite. And they must keep waging that war no matter how much of a cultural minority they become. “Our religious liberty,” he insisted, “must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public.
So let’s imagine a scenario. A devout Christian emigrates from Nigeria to a progressive American college town, where she takes up work as a pharmacist. She quickly finds herself at odds with the dominant culture around her. Co-workers mock her modest dress and her insistence on interrupting work to pray. When she calls homosexuality a sin, they denounce her as a bigot. Ultimately, her employer fires her for refusing to dispense contraception.
Based on his speeches at Liberty University and the Reagan Library, Jindal’s advice to this woman would be clear: Wage “silent war” against the culture that oppresses you, even if you’re a minority of one. If necessary, “establish a separate culture within” the dominant one so you can raise children who fear and obey God.
Now imagine that our devout Nigerian is a Muslim. Suddenly her resistance to the dominant culture makes her not a hero but a menace. Jindal supporters might resist the analogy. Christians, they might argue, don’t kill cartoonists or establish their own separate legal systems. But Jindal’s point in London was that the problems with Muslim immigrants go beyond issues of violence and law. The core danger, he insisted, is their refusal to assimilate into the culture of the countries to which they immigrate. And since Jindal has already declared that American (let alone European) culture is secular, any immigrant who refuses to assimilate into it is, by his definition, a threat. Our Nigerian pharmacist should never been given a visa.
Why point out the contradiction between Jindal’s heroic portrayal of Christian non-assimilators and his demonization of Muslim ones? Because it exposes his lofty talk about culture and identity to be an elaborate ruse. The only principle he’s really defending is anti-Muslim bigotry.
It’s amazing to me that 70 years after the scapegoating of European Jews led to the “ultimate solution” we could still be living with this kind of hatred propagated by elected officials. It is odd that the same people waving flags of Israel understand so little about the history that led to the demand for a Jewish state. Of course, they are only thinking that the fruition of their end times dreams comes only with building of a temple on what is now a holy Islamic site.
I only hope that people of good will speak out against this bigotry.
What is on your reading and blogging list today?