Election 2014  
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Romney Campaign's Ugly Anti-Muslim Strategy to Win Cash and Votes

The Romney campaign courts anti-Muslim bigots for political gain while the Democrats stay silent, despite an alarming spate of attacks on Muslim religious centers.

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Another prominent Romney donor is Irving Moskowitz, who gave $1 million to a pro-Romney super PAC in April. Moskowitz, in addition to being a key player in Israel's attempts to evict Palestinians from East Jerusalem, is also a major funder of Islamophobic groups in the U.S. As Think Progress' Ali Gharib reported, Moskowitz's “foundation has given $485,000 to the Center for Security Policy, a hawkish Washington think-tank run by former Reagan administration official and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. As reported in CAP’s Fear, Inc. Gaffney’s group pushes Islamophobia in the U.S., and Gaffney has proclaimed that practicing the Islamic faith is tantamount to " sedition."

These donors have influenced the Romney's campaign's eagerness to court anti-Muslim figures. But perhaps even more importantly, there are votes to be won.

Anti-Muslim Voters

The Republican base is home to a groundswell of anti-Muslim sentiment. Extensive polling data bears this out.

A July 2012 Pew poll found that “nearly one-in-five voters (17%) say that Obama is Muslim.” That number is even higher among conservative Republicans. According to the Pew poll, “the number of conservative Republicans who say Obama is a Muslim has doubled since October 2008 (from 16% to 34%).” Furthermore, “discomfort with Obama’s religion is concentrated among those who say he is a Muslim. Two-thirds of registered voters who say Obama is a Muslim say they are uncomfortable with his faith (65%).”

The antipathy to Obama because of his perceived Muslim religion (he is a Christian) extends to Islam itself. A September 2011 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that “47 percent of Americans agree that Islam is at odds with American values.” That number grows even higher when looking exclusively at Republicans and Tea Party supporters. “Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Republicans and Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement (66 percent) agree that the values of Islam are at odds with American values,” the institute states. Forty-five percent of Republicans and 54 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party believe that “American Muslims are trying to establish Shari’a law in the U.S.”

The Romney campaign's attempt to tap into anti-Muslim sentiment comes at a time of increased violence toward Muslims in the United States. A number of attacks on Islamic religious institutions have occurred in recent weeks, including the burning of a mosque in Missouri, graffiti on Muslim graves and air rifle shots at a mosque in Illinois. As one article in Salon documented, there were eight attacks in a recent 10-day period on mostly Muslim religious institutions. FBI data shows that anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by 50 percent in 2010, the last year when that data is available.

The need for political leadership to combat the ugly tide of Islamophobia this election season is more pronounced than ever, but the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party have largely run away from challenging the GOP on this issue. Instead, they have stayed mostly silent as the GOP's hate machine runs rampant with alarming consequences for American Muslims.

Author and academic Deepa Kumar explains why. “The discourse about 'Muslim terrorism' is so dominant in this country, and Muslims have been so thoroughly vilified, that no savvy politician is going to come to the defense of Muslims. To do so, you would actually have to have principles and ethics, both of which have little place in our money dominated electoral system,” said Kumar. “The Democrats at best stay silent and at worst tacitly add to this climate. At the broader level, this is because both Democrats and Republicans share a common vision for US foreign policy.”