CA-50 Congressional race unmasks the use of islamophobia to win elections. The race features beleaguered incumbent, Duncan Hunter, and second time challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar.
On July 15, the very day my book was released (Why Do They Hate Us? Making Peace with the Muslim World), District 50 voters received a mailer from the Duncan Hunter campaign featuring a photo of Campa-Najjar along with photos of Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib, who happen to be Muslim. Above the photos was the statement, “these three radical Democrats want you to forget their Anti-Semitism or Family-Terrorist Ties.” This was only days after President Trump’s encouragement to the immigrant Congresswomen to “go back and …fix…the crime infested places from which they came,”
We’ll save the anti-semite label for another blog post and instead focus on Hunter’s transparent use of islamophobia to discredit his Christian opponent, simply based on his appearance and the sound of his name.
Why is this strategy so effective? Arguably, Trump won both the nomination and the election by riding the wave of islamophobia. In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Trump made dozens of openly islamophobic statements and campaign promises. Perhaps the most famous being his 2015 CNN interview with Anderson Cooper when he said, ” I think Islam hates us.”
In my book, I present details of an exhaustive Gallup survey taken throughout the Muslim world that categorically proves that the vast majority of Muslims do not hate Americans. So why do such ridiculous claims continue to have Traction in the United States?
The little-known truth is that hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into public relations think-tanks, such as the Clarion Project, to pump out massive amounts of Islamophobic messaging for political purposes. A simple web search on the term “Islamophobia Industry” will produce several articles, websites, videos, and even a book about the subject.
The use of islamophobia as a political weapon by both Donald Trump and Duncan Hunter is quite transparent. On the part of Donald Trump, as president he maintains chummy relationships with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In his well-publicized visit there with first lady Melania (May 2017), he participated in cultural activities with the royal family and bragged about hundred-million-dollar arms deals. In fact, 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia and it is the teachings of the aberrant Wahhabi faction of Islam based in Saudi Arabia that are the foundation of much of what is known today as Islamic Terror. And yet President Donald Trump celebrates with Saudi royalty. Clearly he is NOT an islamophobe. And have you ever wondered why the Saudi monarchs don’t seem to have any issues with Trump’s islamophobic rhetoric?
In Duncan Hunter’s case, the use of islamophobia as a political weapon is even more transparent. His opponent is not even a Muslim. Ammar Campa-Najjar got his start in public service as a youth leader in a Christian church in San Diego. Islamophobic propaganda is so prevalent and effective that Duncan Hunter is able to use it against his Christian opponent only because of his appearance and his Muslim sounding name.
I saw this firsthand at an event in the town of Ramona, in the heart of California District 50. The local Indivisible group had invited me and a small group of Muslim speakers from San Diego to share about their beliefs to a public gathering at the Ramona Public Library. It was during the Q&A session after the speakers that things got out of hand.
About 8 individuals took turns harassing the speakers with questions from sources that neither I nor any of the Muslim speakers were aware of. The speakers were humble and soft-spoken, and endured 30 minutes of harassment from misinformed participants. I later learned that Republican groups had hosted at least four high-profile islamophobia events in the town of Ramona since just before the election of Donald Trump. Again making it crystal clear that islamophobia is nothing but a political device.
Lost in the misinformed propaganda and rhetoric are the real life consequences for Muslims around the world. The number of hate crimes against Muslims spikes with the political cycle. The perpetrator of the mosque massacres in Christchurch New Zealand cited President Trump as a source of inspiration. I truly fear for my Muslim friends as the political energy builds and climaxes leading up to November 2020.
What is the solution? Outrage is appropriate but not enough. If we want America and the West to vote on the real issues, then we must dismantle the islamophobia propaganda machine. And this is the heartbeat of nonprofit organization salaamusa.org and the message of my book. You can help by supporting Salaam and sharing my book with others.