The Crescent Report

October 26, 2010

Tea Party Leader Calls for Defeat of Rep. Ellison “Because He is a Muslim”

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 11:11 am


The Tea Party is still serving its bitter brew of bigotry. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: “Definition for the Tea Party strategy: Doing something dirty and trying to call it clean.”

Tea Party Leader Calls for Defeat of Rep. Ellison “Because He is a Muslim”

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It is not merely because evil deeds may be performed in the name of patriotism, but because patriotic fervor can obliterate moral distinctions altogether.”

Samuel Johnson, April 7th, 1775

Just when we thought we had heard enough of the “Islamophobia camouflaged as love for country” rhetoric, now we have witnessed another broadside attack on Muslims. This time, it came from Judson Phillips, the leader of the Tea Party Nation faction of the umbrella Tea Party movement, who called for the electoral defeat of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) because, in his own words, Ellison is “a Muslim”.

Of course, there’s nothing new about self-styled conservatives throwing rocks against “liberals” in Congress, and calling for voters to oust them from their elected offices. Keith Ellison is certainly a progressive, and a member of Congress who has earned wide respect for his two terms of service to his constituents.  Mr. Ellison, for the record, represents a district that is overwhelmingly non-Muslim, and he has represented his constituents with distinction.

But a straight-out attack on Keith Ellison’s identity as a Muslim is clearly over the top, even for a political movement that is not known for its thoughtful deliberation. This represents a naked form of religious bigotry that the post – Mark Williams (“Allah is a monkey god and Muslims are his animals”) Tea Baggers have been somewhat reticent to display even if this religious animosity and prejudice is understood to be part of their agenda.

For the record, Keith Ellison is not the only individual leader or Muslim organization in the gun sights of the far Right.  CAIR is routinely attacked as a “front’ organization for Islamic radical groups outside the country, and MAS, as you well know, is conveniently dismissed as a surrogate for the Muslim Brotherhood.  The fact that Rep. Ellison has cordial relationships with these, and a host of other Muslim organizations in Minnesota and throughout the United States, seems to have been all the ammunition needed by Judson Phillips and the Tea Party Nation to justify calling for his political demise.

Tea Party-ers take constant refuge in their “patriotism”, and excoriate their opponents for not standing up for the “true” values of America.  But when I last checked, religious liberty and respect for religious diversity were regarded as two of the bedrock values of democracy in the United States.  What would the nation think, for instance, if a political group called for the defeat of an incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives simply because he or she is a Jew, a Catholic, or a Mormon?

If other prominent and identifiable Tea Party leaders don’t immediately repudiate Judson Phillips’ words, then they, themselves, will be guilty of silent complicity with his poisonous and indefensible bigotry.  There is no room in the American political discourse for attacks on the religion of any person in public office.

As the 18th century activist Samuel Johnson said at the onset of the American Revolution, evil deeds may, indeed, be performed in the name of patriotism.  But scoundrels must not be allowed to take refuge in some self-professed love of flag and nation that, in fact, violates the very essence of liberty and respect for religious pluralism.

In this respect, Keith Ellison – a Muslim American – may well be a far more patriotic citizen that Judson Phillips could ever hope to be.


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