The Problem With Rand Paul’s Islamophobic Pandering to Evangelicals

On Friday, the holiest day of the week for Muslims around the world, Muslims suffered through another round of anti-modernity and ignorance at the 2013 Value Voters Summit. However, the surprising disappointment lies in the claims that Muslims are engaging in a “worldwide war against Christianity” by someone who, until now, had been widely considered the biggest critic of U.S. intervention in Muslim countries.

Rand Paul’s remarks indicate that he doesn’t seem to understand that for every drooling social conservative he picks up, he loses dozens of independents and, well, not-insane people. The GOP didn’t have enough votes to win in 2012, I don’t see how shrinking the party to just the religious authoritarians is the solution.

At the summit, Senator Rand Paul won the hearts of many conservatives and likely curried some favoritism within the Republican Party. However, as a decent American (and a Muslim), there cannot be any justifications for these claims:

Ever since 9/11, commentators have tried to avoid pointing fingers at Islam, which is somewhat fair. It is fair to point out that most Muslims are not committed to violence against Christians, but it’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is – and we shouldn’t let political correctness stand in the way of this truth – the whole truth is that there is a minority of Muslims who condone killing of Christians, but, unfortunately, that minority number is in the tens of millions.

Attendee from the Crowd: That’s right.

Some claim that it’s strategic to open up to the evangelical and neo-conservative base of the political party. But could pandering to withering and backward social conservatives really benefit such political ambitions, let alone benefit Americans? No.

And I understand why Senator Rand Paul (may I add that I was his former intern) would make use of Islamophobic rhetoric. He wants to prove that his non-interventionist policies and crusade of cutting aid to Middle Eastern countries are seen as pro-Israel and anti-Muslim policies.

But then again, he went too far by claiming that “Christians should be prepared for war.” The real wars America is engaged in are propped up by Christian evangelicals and their pandering appeasers like Senator Rand Paul. Nearly a thousand years after the Crusades that brought death and destruction based on faith, American leaders are pushing for more. Those
claiming that there is a war against Christianity, although non-existent right now, are making it a reality. And for those who are tirelessly pointing their fingers at Muslims and deem them enemies are willfully advocating the very violence they accuse Muslims of seeking.

Robert Pape of the University of Chicago – also a foreign policy advisor for the elder Paul and President Obama – studied nearly every case of suicide bombings between 1980-2003, as well as Muslim reactions to terrorism. This produced research that harshly disputes the underlying assumptions of radical Christian propaganda in American foreign policy.

Pape’s research found that “the ‘specific secular and strategic goal’ of suicide terrorists is to end foreign military occupations.” In partnership with Gallup, Pape conducted the largest survey of Muslims around the world – 50,000 in 35 countries – where 93% rejected the 9/11 suicide attacks. The remaining 7% were polled and focus groups cited political reasons for their support violence – not religious reasons. In fact, “the minority of Muslims that wants to harm Christians” seems to be almost entirely motivated by their hostility to U.S. foreign policy. A fact that Sen. Paul seemingly left out of his remarks.

Even further, this “strategic” rhetoric that Paul chose to engage in only goes against his political ambitions – whatever they may be. Being a white, male, southern Republican is tough enough, but to use the hatred of Islam and Muslims as justifications for your policies – no matter how great they may be – will turn off many of the young and independent voters the GOP desperately needs to win over in order to win the White House.

And I’m one of the many who are turned off and disheartened by his speech. My sincere support of Senator Rand Paul, as a Muslim, has been exploited and my faith scapegoated to secure the hearts of those who have no problem letting thousands of those who share my religion die in pointless occupations and drone attacks.

However, there is certainly blame to go around in American politics. President Obama and his entourage claim that they are the ambassadors for the tolerance of Islam – but then use drone strikes and send aid to countries that actually harm (and kill) Muslims. Alternatively, Senator Rand Paul wants to leave these majority-Muslim countries alone – and his Senate voting record backs that up. However, he panders to Islamophobia to get the evangelical and neo-conservatives to side with him.

There will be supporters who claim that his remarks are strategic and were only to bring favoritism into the party. If that is so, then he lied. He lied to gain popularity, because he is desperate for the presidency. That alone isn’t any more remarkable or exceptional than the next politician. But what is remarkable is the ideological difference that Paul just recently expressed to CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley just this past Sunday:

No. I’ve always been a Republican, and I’m one of those people who actually is a real lover of the history of the Republican Party from the days of abolition to the days of civil rights,” said Paul, “In our state, I’m really proud of the fact that the ones who overturned Jim Crow in Kentucky were Republicans fighting against an entirely unified Democratic Party, so I am proud to be Republican.

If Senator Paul so firmly believes in the rich history of the Republican party, then he should re-evaluate his game plan and stop the promotion of injustice through prejudiced views of billions of Muslims. In doing so, he’ll stop fueling the fires which cause the occupations, interventions and bombings of Muslim countries. And it will attract tolerant, worldly young voters to the party, something desperately needed for the GOP to have any chance going forward.

If you’d like to speak with or book Sarah or any of our Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.

Young Voices Associate Cathy Reisenwitz Published by Talking Points Memo

Today Talking Points Memo published a column by Young Voices Associate Cathy Reisenwitz, Revenge Porn Is Awful, But the Law Against It Is Worse:

While the problem of revenge porn may be relatively new, the impulse to legislate every problem society faces is anything but. Lawmakers in other states and at the federal level must once again resist its call and uphold the First Amendment instead.

Read the rest here.