This election season, a nation gripped by xenophobia — stirred in part over the paranoid hysteria surrounding the Park51 Islamic community center in Manhattan — produced the perfect opportunity for Rep.-elect Renee Ellmers’ (R-NC) candidacy. Quick to capitalize on brewing Islamophobia, Ellmers launched an ominous campaign ad slamming opponent Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) for failing to denounce the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for a “victory mosque” near the World Trade Center site. “The terrorists haven’t one,” said Ellmers. “And we should tell them in plain English ‘No, there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero.'”
Relatively unknown in North Carolina politics, Ellmers rode “the most baldly anti-Muslim ad of the year” to national fame and electoral victory. But her win felt “more like a sharp blow” for her Muslim constituents who were offended by an ad equating Muslims to terrorists and implying that Park51 is funded by terrorists. But unlike many Muslim–bashing mouthpieces would have Americans believe, these local American Muslims are participating in democracy and trying to reach out to Ellmers to know “what her intentions are”:
Dismayed by the ad, individuals and groups within the Triangle’s Muslim community say they are interested in pursuing a truce with Ellmers. They have been trying to reach out to her since the ad first aired in late September.
“I’ve called her office three times,” said Khalilah Sabra, executive director of the state chapter of the Muslim American Society’s immigrant justice project. “We’d like to know where she stands and what her intentions are with regard to the Muslim community.”[…]
Members of the Muslim American Public Affairs Council, a Raleigh group that has successfully reached out to other members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, said Ellmers will be invited to the group’s yearly dinner March 19. In years past, congressmen Brad Miller and David Price have attended, as have state lawmakers, mayors and law enforcement officers.
Mohammad Elgamal, chairman of the group’s executive committee, said he wrote Ellmers shortly after the mosque TV ad aired. He never heard back. But he’s not yet discouraged.
“I know people say things in the campaign, but they don’t mean it,” Elgamal said. “Personally, I’m willing to work with her.”
Watch Ellmer’s campaign ad here:
In an appearance on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 this past September, Ellmers participated in a heated interview which revealed a certain lack of respect for non-Christian traditions. When Cooper inquired why she used “the term Muslim and the term terrorist basically interchangeable,” she replied “I’m not attempting to say all Muslims are terrorists, basically what I’m saying sir is that they were terrorists who attacked us, they were Islamic jihadists.” When Cooper continued to point out that those behind Park51 aren’t terrorists and the fallacy of her “victory mosques” claims, a floundering Ellmers retorted, “I have history to back me up. … We are not fighting radical Christians, we are fighting radical Muslims.”
At one point, Ellmers asked Cooper, “Are you anti-religion? Are you anti-Christian in your thinking?” To which Cooper replied, “that’s like the lowest response I’ve ever heard from a candidate.”