Lecturer: campaign rhetoric damages Arab relations

Source: Melissa Dawkins

Friday October 07, 2011

One Arab-American scholar said Thursday night the current crop of Republican Iowa caucus contenders could further damage the U.S. reputation abroad.

James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, said he's concerned the political anti-Islamic rhetoric used in the GOP presidential-nomination race may strain U.S.-Arab relations.

"They can't have an intelligent conversation about the Middle East," Zogby, who spoke at Old Brick, told The Daily Iowan this week. "They're not aware of the consequences of their actions. They don't seem to have a clue that what they say is heard all over the world."

Zogby, who spoke at an event hosted by the Iowa United Nations Association on Thursday, said he is speaking out against this type of rhetoric.

"[The candidates] are into this Islamaphobic rhetorical binge and playing to people's fears," he said.

Susan Moore, who attended the event, echoed similar sentiments regarding the Republican candidate pool.

"The impression you get is that the Republicans really don't care about the country," she said.

However, Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political-science associate professor, said candidates take specific stands to reach different segments of American voters.

"The idea is that candidates are trying to reach out and get public support … It may depend on how they defend a specific position," he said.

As an example, Zogby said he's concerned by Republican candidate Herman Cain's remarks about sharia law in America.

"[Cain] just iterated the same nonsense …" Zogby said. "No one is trying to impose sharia in America. This is something very serious, very important."

In response to Cain's comment that he would not be comfortable appointing a Muslim to his Cabinet, Hagle said that candidates must be careful.

"Those were quick comments to offhand questions … The point he was trying to make was that because there are Muslims who are radicalized, he would want to make sure the appointee was loyal to the United States," he said.

Zogby said he is concerned that Americans are not being accurately represented by candidates' words and actions.

"I think that there's a problem in the degree to which the statements are undercutting our values," he said.

UI student Salah Moghram said he has similar ideas to Zogby's after Thursday night's speech.

"The president can do anything, and basically, Republicans are just trying to get a new Republican president, regardless of what he's doing," he said. "And I don't agree about that."

Zogby said he feels some progress has been made in awarness of Islamaphobia.

"I think that there's a more enlightened public, but I think that the divide is greater on a partisan basis," he said. "Another part of the electorate is locked in fear and anger, simply not knowing."

Read the original article by The Daily Iowan .