Anti-Muslim rhetoric, recently on display as lawmakers discuss the issue of resettling Syrian refugees, began on the fringes of the far-right and has infiltrated mainstream politics, according to a new report released by the National Security Network.
“The current political climate is the culmination of a years-long and well-funded effort to bring Islamophobia and xenophobia from the far-right fringe to the political mainstream,” report authors J. Dana Stuster and Samuel Davidoff-Gore write. “This rhetoric and legislation has a direct lineage stemming from a network of hate groups and conspiracy theorists. The legitimization of these extremists’ views in the political discourse is an irresponsible denigration of American democracy.”
As the report points out, anti-Muslim rhetoric is becoming increasingly prominent among Republican presidential candidates. Real estate mogul Donald Trump has said he would consider closing down mosques and keeping a database of American-Muslims while neurosurgeon Ben Carson has compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”
Before presidential frontrunners used such terminology, though, it was largely restricted to the fringes of the Republican party. During Mitt Romney’s 2012 run for president, the former Massachusetts governor “rebuked Islamophobic statements from members of his party.” The Republicans then issued a report that called for policies that would try and portray their party as more inclusive.
Now, the party appears to have instead welcomed fringe ideas into the mainstream. As the report reads:
However, politicians belonging to the Republicans’ Tea Party insurgency have maintained a mutually-reinforcing relationship with the bigots at the fringe of their party. Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in particular has given these groups access to Congress, headlining the “Uninvited II” conference established by groups from which CPAC has distanced itself. And last year, Gaffney was not only back at CPAC, but his organization, the Center for Security Policy, was listed as a contributing sponsor of the event. The Republican establishment has apparently given up trying to ostracize Gaffney and his ilk, and in September, the Center for Security Policy cosponsored a Capitol Hill rally protesting the Iran nuclear agreement, featuring Cruz, Donald Trump, and former Gov. Sarah Palin.
The latest targets of anti-Muslim sentiment and speech in the U.S. are Syrian refugees. Efforts to resettle 10,000 vulnerable Syrians is facing opposition after a number of American governors — on both sides of the aisle — were shaken by the Nov. 13 attack in Paris, France. After the attack, a Syrian passport was found near the crime scene. Despite claims that the passport was likely fake, and that gaining access to the U.S. as a refugee is a stringent process that takes as long as two years, governors used the incident to call for suspending resettlement.
“The Syrian refugee resettlement process comprises 21 steps, which include a variety of screening methods and built in redundancies,” the report says. “If there are doubts about any individual, their application can be rejected.”