Steve Gravelle/SourceMedia Group News

Posted by Steve Gravelle/SourceMedia Group News on October 07, 2011 in News Clips

The tenor of the Republican primary threatens Arab Americans and could damage American interests abroad, the president of the Arab American Institute said today in Cedar Rapids.

“The nature of the discussion has been not just not constructive, but in some ways it’s been hurtful,” James Zogby said in a meeting with The Gazette’s editorial board. “We have a Republican debate and we have three guys saying Moslems are going to have to take loyalty oaths and sharia is creeping into the United States.”

Zogby is in the state to meet with Arab American Iowans in advance of next year’s GOP caucuses. He’d like to see Arab Americans raise foreign policy issues with the Republican hopefuls, although he admits Arab Americans aren’t likely to participate in the GOP process.

Zogby noted the Republican Party’s favorable ratings among Arab Americans have deteriorated from a near-tie with Democrats in 2000 to 22 percent last year, “and I don’t see any indication why that gap should narrow.”

“There are people in Congress today because their campaign that they ran did television commercials on the New York mosque,” he said.

Still, Zogby hopes to see some Iowans raise foreign policy questions with the GOP hopefuls.

“People are going to talk about what’s on the minds of folks, and that’s the economy,” he said. “I don’t want to dismiss that, but foreign policy is going to be critical. Every president since Carter has had his success or failure measured in part by what happens in the Middle East.”

Zogby criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s speech today at The Citadel, billed as a major foreign policy address.

“Projecting more power won’t make us stronger,” he said. “That’s what got us where we are. You don’t get out of a hole digging it deeper.”

The election, and even the Iowa caucuses, are followed in the Arab world, Zogby said.

“Arabs in the Middle East are going to look at the election and see the choice between someone who’s disappointed us, and someone who scares the hell out of us,” he said.

Zogby, 66, met last night with local residents and students in Iowa City. He’ll meet this afternoon with area Moslems at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids.

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