Muslim-Baiting in the 2016 Presidential Campaign

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Feb. 14 2014 3:52 PM

The Muslim Threat

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Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., at a rally on Sept. 10, 2013.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Yesterday I wrote about the danger of demonizing Muslims. I cited remarks from several Republican politicians who argued a couple of years ago that no mosque should be allowed near the site of the 9/11 attack in New York.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Today I looked at a speech given last night in California by Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. Jindal’s speech, which asserted a religious right to practice anti-gay policies in private business activity, echoed the argument made 14 years ago by Bob Jones University in defense of its policy against interracial dating. The resemblance is uncanny. You can read the whole article here.

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But Jindal’s speech raised another problematic theme as well: the idea of a war between Islam and Christianity. Here’s what he said:

In nation after nation, Christians are being slaughtered by radical Islamists for their beliefs. … Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. ... When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” And today, around the world, many Christians are living out that calling. That is a shooting war over religion, not a silent one.

In targeting Islam, Jindal is hardly alone. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another likely Republican candidate for president, asserted two years ago that “Sharia law is an enormous problem.” And last fall, a third likely candidate, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, told an overwhelmingly Christian audience at the Values Voters Summit:

Today I want to tell you about a war the mainstream media is ignoring. From Boston to Zanzibar, there is a worldwide war on Christianity. …
Ever since 9/11, commentators have tried to avoid pointing fingers at Islam. While it is fair to point out that most Muslims are not committed to violence against Christians, this is not the whole truth and we should not let political correctness stand in the way of the truth. …
We send billions of dollars a year to Pakistan and Egypt. We helped put new Islamic regimes in place in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama now sends arms to Islamic Rebels in Syria. In Egypt the mob attacked our embassy and burned our flag. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that terrorists who kill Americans tend to do so in the name of Islam. It’s quite another thing to accept them as representatives of their faith, to affirm their message of enmity between Christianity and Islam, and to portray Islamic law as a threat within this country.

Do the Republicans running for president really believe that? Do they think such talk will make this country safer? Do they think it will make us more free?