Huma Abedin Battle With Michele Bachmann: A New Low in American Political Prejudice

This time around, Michele Bachmann (R - Minn.) seems to have bitten off more than she can chew. Bachmann’s recent diatribe against Huma Abedin, wife to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D - NY) – as being a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer has rightly drawn criticism from top Republican leaders including John McCain, Rep. Mike Rogers and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (D - Minn.). Bachmann is said to have indicated that Abedin, who is a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has family ties to Muslim Brotherhood.

While one can always say cite the First Amendment rights to free speech as a constitutionally mandated right to speak one’s mind; this is a slippery slope when someone’s loyalty and character are questioned. It is further reprehensible that Bachmann singled out Abedin because of her religion.

Religion and politics have come together in a deadly cocktail in this presidential campaign, as several candidates, especially from the far-right have used religion ( in particular singling out Muslims) for bashing. It is surprising how main-stream it has become to equate all Muslims with extremists, and Islam with terrorism.

As a friend recently joked to me that we have a Mormon and Muslim running for president, I realized how misleading and dangerous this discourse can be.

This recent pushback against Bachmann is a welcome move, and should be seen in the broader context of the political discourse and growing Islamophobia. It is rare that so many senior Republican leaders have come out against bigotry and fear-mongering. While McCain has had a solid track-record of defending President Obama, when he was attacked as being secretly Muslim, the fact that others have come out to defend actual Muslims is quite extraordinary.

At a recent town hall meeting that I attended, (which was organized by Karama, a civil rights advocacy group, and other prominent Catholic and Jewish groups), I heard three questioners, who seemed to be the Tea-Party types question the speakers as to why the panelists (comprised of leading legal experts) were sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood’s views.  

It is as if anything that is related to Muslim issues can be easily labeled “foreign” or “other” and hence not friendly or even inimical to the U.S.’s interests.

Ellison, who was speaking at Islamic Relief’s Ramadan reception on Wednesday night made a subtle reference to Bachmann saying “We are in the greatest country in the world. We are a country which is free and respect people of all religions and ethnicities. The proof of this is that we are objective people. We demand evidence before passing judgment on others but some people seem to forget this”.

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Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

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