An American Islam
Election 2012: The Defeat of Islamophobia
The American people have spoken loudly and clearly about what the agenda and direction of our country should be for the next four years. Indeed, the results of the 2012 elections have given pundits and analysts many things to study about our nation, the electorate, and our people. One of the most important results of this election is that hate lost. And lost big.
Take Joe Walsh, a Republican from the 8th district in Illinois. He lost to Democrat Tammy Duckworth by a pretty decisive margin. Walsh was known for doing many bombastic and outrageous things while in office. And, he was not to be outdone on the Islamophobic front. Earlier this year in a town hall meeting, an attendee told Walsh that he was "looking for some godly men and women in the Senate, in the Congress, who will stand in the face of danger of Islam." Walsh responded by saying that radical Islam is "Here. It's in Elk Grove. It's in Addison. It's in Elgin. It's here."
Those are suburbs of Chicago in his district. Almost immediately after he said those comments, a mosque in Morton Grove was shot at. Soon after that, another mosque and Islamic school was firebombed. He did nothing to speak out against those actions. And so, the Muslims in his district, many of whom I know, mobilized to get him out of office. They succeeded, and hate lost.
Florida Rep. Allen West is another top Islamophobe who lost his seat in the election (though he still refuses to concede). His anti-Islam comments and sentiments were over the top, calling Islam a "totalitarian theocratic political ideology," and a "very vile and very vicious enemy." He said that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison (D), a Muslim, was "representing the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established." He did many more anti-Islam things, and so the Muslims in his district mobilized to get him out of office. They succeeded, and hate lost again.
Florida State Representative Adam Hasner (R) was defeated in his bid for Congress. Hasner once co-hosted an event featuring notorious Islam-hater Geert Wilders. That event was also sponsored by Islamophobia leader Pamela Geller. Hasner once attempted to block a "Florida Muslim Capitol Day," and he sponsored a screening of the anti-Muslim hate film "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" for state lawmakers. Another Florida lawmaker who sought to keep Muslim speakers out of local schools was defeated in his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board.
Now, it would be premature to say that Muslim political grassroots campaigning solely led to the ouster of each of these candidates. There were other factors that played into their respective defeats. But definitely, Muslim efforts contributed, and this is heartening. What is most important is that hateful rhetoric and hateful division was rejected in this election. The politics of fear and hate were repudiated, and all of America is benefitting as a result.
This does not mean the end of politicians who seek to capitalize on hate and fear. But, the defeat of politicians such as Joe Walsh and Alan West does send a message: The American people do not appreciate the politics of fear, and they will have their voices be heard at the ballot box. If this makes more public officials take note and refrain from the basest of our nature, then our country will be that much better.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based physician and writer. He is author of, most recently, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry (Faithful Word Press). You can follow Hesham Hassaballa on Facebook.