Posted by on August 17, 2010 in Blog

Recently, we highlighted the fact that leading Republicans have adopted the divisive politics of anti-Muslim forces in their opposition to the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan. Increasingly disheartened by the hostile rhetoric of some of their party leaders, prominent Arab American Republicans have joined American Muslim Republicans to promote a healthier Party discourse on the issue.

In a letter to their Republican colleagues (full text below), several prominent Arab American and American Muslim Republicans criticized the politicization of this issue, and the attempt of some Republicans to stir negative passions as a tool of electoral opportunism, saying:

While we share the desire of all in our party to be successful in the November elections, we cannot support victory at the expense of the U.S. Constitution or the Arab and Muslim community in America. As President Lincoln so eloquently stated in his famous speech: "a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Commenting on the current climate, AAI Chairman George Salem said:

We need to reach the day when race-baiting against Arabs and Muslims ends in this country. The mosque issue is the most recent manifestation in American politics where politicians can target Arab and Muslim Americans with impunity. It is in our national interest to end this deplorable practice. Over a billion Muslims in the world watch this and paint Americans with a broad brush as people who hate Muslims. Our public diplomacy efforts in the Arab world are seriously undermined by this form of negative and hurtful politics, and it must end.

Randa Fahmy Hudome, who sits on AAI’s Board of Governors and is a former Bush administration official, criticized Newt Gingrich’s baseless “chatter about Sharia Law” and warned that Muslim Americans may be further alienated from the Party with this type of rhetoric. Also from AAI’s Board of Governors and head of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women, Sherine El-Abd noted that distance from ground zero would not have mattered had the concern been genuinely about allegations of extremism. David Ramadan, a politically active Arab American leader and a member of the Virginia delegation to the Republican National Convention, said that the undermining of the constitution by some of his party members was “absolutely unacceptable."

With prominent Arab American and American Muslim Republicans speaking out, hopefully the leadership of the Republican Party will start paying attention and try to live up to its responsibility to ensure constructive discourse among its candidates as we head into election season.


August 17, 2010

Dear Republican Colleague:

We are writing to you today as loyal Americans who are active members of the Republican Party. We also happen to be proud of our Arab American and Muslim American contributions to the Republican Party.

We are deeply concerned by the rhetoric of some leading members of our party surrounding the construction of the Muslim Community Center in downtown Manhattan. These comments are not only constitutionally unsound, they are also alienating millions of Arab American and Muslim American voters who believe, as we do, in the principles of our party - individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.

As you know, our party has had a long history of inclusion - beginning with our great President Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership on the slavery issue was monumental, and continuing through President George W. Bush whose public statements and actions on the differentiation between Islam and the terrorists who attacked us on 9-11 were critically important. We are particularly proud to note that President Bush appointed more Arab Americans and Muslim Americans to his administration than any other president in U.S. history.

That being said, it perplexes us as to why some vocal members of our party have chosen to oppose the construction of a cultural and religious center on private grounds. Not only does the First Amendment to our Constitution protect the right of these private citizens to worship freely, it also prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion. Our party and the leaders in our party should not be engaged in judgment issues of the location of a cultural center and a house of worship in direct contravention of the First Amendment.

While some in our party have recently conceded the constitutional argument, they are now arguing that it is insensitive, intolerant and unacceptable to locate the center at the present location: "Just because they have the right to do so - does not make it the right thing to do" they say. Many of these individuals are objecting to the location as being too close to the Ground Zero site and voicing the understandable pain and anguish of the 9-11 families who lost loved ones in this horrible tragedy. In expressing compassion and understanding for these families, we are asking ourselves the following: if two blocks is too close, is four blocks acceptable? or six blocks? or eight blocks? Does our party believe that one can only practice his/her religion in certain places within defined boundaries and away from the disapproving glances of some citizens? Should our party not be standing up and taking a leadership role- just like President Bush did after 9-11 - by making a clear distinction between Islam, one of the great three monotheistic faiths along with Judaism and Christianity, versus the terrorists who committed the atrocities on 9-11 and who are not only the true enemies of America but of Islam as well? President Bush struck the right balance in expressing sympathy for the families of the 9-11 victims while making it absolutely clear that the acts committed on 9-11 were not in the name of Islam. We are hoping that our party leaders can do the same now - especially at a time when it is greatly needed.

While we share the desire of all in our party to be successful in the November elections, we cannot support victory at the expense of the U.S. Constitution or the Arab and Muslim community in America. As President Lincoln so eloquently stated in his famous speech: "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

As proud and patriotic Americans, we are grateful for all the rights our U.S. citizenship allows us, and we will always do our best to not only protect our rights but the rights of all others as well. May God Bless our nation, our freedoms, and our party.

David Ramadan

Vice Chair, Ethnic Coalitions, Republican Party of Virginia

Sherine El-Abd

President, New Jersey Federation of Republican Women

Randa Fahmy Hudome

Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy, Bush Administration

George Salem

Solicitor of Labor, Reagan Administration

Suhail Khan

Chairman, Conservative Inclusion Coalition