9.16.2006

Muslim candidate asked if he "associates with terrorists"


MN-05

A candidate for Congress who is an African-American Muslim was asked if he "associates with terrorists" in a debate with his opponent.

Keith Ellison won the Democratic primary (DFL) this week in a safe Dem. seat and would be the first Muslim in Congress. His opponent, Alan Fine, has unleashed a barrage of attacks saying that he (Fine) is "offended as a Jew" by Ellison, and putting it about that Ellison associates with terrorists.

Apparently just a few weeks ago Fine was reasonable enough to get the respect of local journalist Doug Grow, but now Grow says that Fine has "lost any claim to moderation, thoughtfulness or originality" (a reference to the fact that Fine might be parroting GOP talking points).

Whoever is responsible for these statements, it is sad to see them reproduce stereotypes and ethnic/religious profiles. This is not an isolated comment or slip of the tongue from Fine. In general if a candidate does say something racial or offensive, look if there is a pattern of such remarks or behavior. If not, take it with a pinch of salt. But with repeated, extremist comments, as in this case, well, the game is up.

A related issue this week comes from the comments made by the Pope. Although the Pope seemed to imply that Islam has spread itself through violence, he has since issued a semi-apology:

"The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers," Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a statement."
But the larger issue is that Catholicism has very favorable official doctrine on Islam from Vatican II, as Juan Cole points out. Cole quotes the following:
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth (5), who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes great pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgement when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this Sacred Synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.
These are fine "catholic" sentiments. The BBC website provides a clue that this Pope is very much against violence in religion. And that's fine. But sometimes you have to clearly recognize (and state) that few religions can historically claim to be free of violence. That being said isn't it better to decry all violence, as well as not incidentally to recognize that violence comes in many forms (including economic violence, which kills just as assuredly).

On the other hand, people like Fine (or, as Minnesotans suspect, Karl Rove) are doing the opposite and are stirring hatreds for political reasons. They can only deserve our condemnation.

1 comment:

broccoli said...

FYI, there's more details on the Ellison mud-slinging by both Republicans and Democrats in the articles below from local media. Though it's not all explictly about Ellison's faith, race and religion are the subtext to most of the opposition. I think that opposition feels especially threatened by the large immigrant communities (Mexican, Somali) in Minneapolis.

http://citypages.com/databank/27/1343/article14661.asp

http://www.startribune.com/587/story/648993.html