Wednesday, December 16, 2015

GOP Candidates Must Condemn Islamophobia

The silence at last night's Republican debate over Donald Trump's screed against Muslim Americans is an insult to the American people. Some candidates pointed out that Trump's plans are unrealistic. Not a single one pointed out that they are deeply prejudiced and an affront to the religious freedoms guaranteed to American citizens.

The men and woman on stage in Las Vegas last night are candidates for the presidency of the United States and have a responsibility to lead. But not a single one was willing to call out blatant unapologetic bigotry against an entire religion. This silence is not only an affront to Muslim Americans, 5,000 of whom serve in this country's military, but to all religious minorities in the United States. 

The United States Constitution protects "religion," and not just the ones a certain plurality of the American public happens to like. Restrictions on Muslim American rights limit constitutional religious protections in ways that hurt Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Bahai rights as well. That is why members of these groups have condemned Trump's comments. Millions of Americans have experienced religious discrimination firsthand, and know that progress on religious tolerance in the United States is reversible. Whether Donald Trump believes his own rhetoric is irrelevant to whether it should be condemned. The lack of attention to this issue in last night's debate is cause for legitimate concern.

The idea that Muslim Americans deserve less rights because of Da'esh is without merit. The President is being chastised for spurning the term "Islamic terrorism" by candidates who clearly have no concept of either Islam or terrorism. The threat Da'esh poses to Americans requires continued coalition airstrikes, strong intelligence, outreach to US allies, engagement with key communities, and public awareness promotion. It does not require the blanket targeting of an entire group of American citizens. Da'esh is not a "special case." It is far less threatening than many adversaries the United States has faced.

As the campaign progresses, Republican candidates must be more vigilant in calling out religious prejudice from within their ranks. This position is consistent with the Republican party platform of protecting freedom, and is literally the least the candidates can do to convince Americans they are serious contenders to lead a country whose constitution ensures liberty and justice for all.

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