Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Blog
Not long ago, when Islamophobia’s break into mainstream political discourse was still fresh, my dismay with bigoted rhetoric from politicians was accompanied by an adrenaline rush of sorts, with the exciting “wait until my Facebook friends see this” thought rushing through my head. Well, it’s not funny anymore. Now, troubling statements just elicit sighs of “here we go again” instead of punchy humor. That’s certainly how I felt when I heard Newt Gingrich’s comments about the anti-Muslim witch-hunt this week.
Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer bout his defense of Michele Bachmann’s McCarthyite allegations against the loyalties of Arab Americans and American Muslims working in government, Gingrich responded with “first of all, behind McCarthyism there were real spies.” Blitzer reminded Gingrich that “baseless charges” caused “a lot of people to suffer” under McCarthyism, but Gingrich responded with “but there were a lot of guilty people who wouldn’t have been uncovered.” So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Gingrich openly rose to the defense of McCarthyism to justify his support of Bachmann’s witch-hunt.
Gingrich was topped by Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL), who was caught on tape saying: “Your government is so afraid of offending Islam that right in front of our noses we saw what was happening in Fort Hood and because your government is politically correct, Americans died.” These comments reportedly came in response to an audience member who said “Islam is not the peaceful, loving religion we hear about” and wondered if there were any Muslim members of Congress “who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam in America without political correctness.” I’m not sure if this is something to applaud, but Congressman Walsh did backtrack his comments by later acknowledging the distinction between “most Muslims” and a “radical strain of Islam.”
However fed-up we are with this rhetoric, we can’t afford to get desensitized to it and accept Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism as a normal part of our discourse. We have to remain fully conscious of how outrageous they are and we must continue to name and shame those responsible for them until they are no longer acceptable.