GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a history of snubbing her Muslim constituents and saying Muslims in Europe are “taking over” and “diminishing” Western culture. The Washington Post reports that in her nearly five years in Congress, Bachmann has relied on her connections to social conservatives and has put little effort into reaching out to other groups, particularly Muslims.
Constituents who do not fit into Bachmann’s narrow ideological core say they feel completely ignored by her. Perhaps most disturbingly, Muslims in Bachmann’s congressional district say they feel alienated by remarks she’s made blaming Muslims for not assimilating sufficiently and suggesting their values and culture are not “equal” to Western values and culture:
Some Muslims in Bachmann’s district say they know her primarily from what they see on television, and they point to a remark she made during a Republican debate in 2005. Asked about rioting Muslim youth in France, Bachmann responded, “Not all cultures are equal,” and she criticized the “tribalism” of Muslims immigrating to the country.
“Not all values are equal,” she continued. “Those who are coming into France, which had a beautiful culture, the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population in France, they are losing Western Europeans, and it’s being taken over by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad, but they are not assimilating.”
One Republican activist, Ikram Ul Huq, recounts how, in 2009, Bachmann twice stood up a group of her Muslim constituents after he scheduled meetings with her. Bachmann offered no apology and did not attempt to reschedule. “We wanted to talk about jobs and the local issues that matter to us. She simply dodged the thing,” Huq said.
Bachmann also ignored phone calls and letters from the St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization, which assists the region’s refugee population. “It seems that she never had an intention to have a relationship with our community,” said the group’s administrator, Farhad Mohamud. Bachmann also refused to meet with Tammy Aaberg, whose teenage son committed suicide, about the epidemic of gay bullying-related teen suicides in Bachmann’s district.
One former senior aide to Bachmann explained her selective interaction with constituents this way: “If you could further her causes, she would make time for you. If she didn’t see any real benefit to her, you wouldn’t be on her schedule.” Unfortunately, Bachmann’s Muslim-bashing is unlikely to hurt Bachmann in a GOP field that’s been characterized by its Islamaophobia.