The anti-Muslim fear-mongering being spewed by virtually every Republican presidential candidate makes terrorism seem like a uniquely Islamic phenomenon. It's not. In fact, home-grown terrorism in the U.S. is a distinctly non-Muslim threat that is committed almost exclusively by non-Muslims. As the Department of Justice reported, more Americans have died at the hands of domestic terrorists than in attacks by international terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. But the candidates know that their bigoted comments resonate with an increasingly large and receptive anti-Muslim audience, and they eagerly exploit the fears and prejudices of these ignorant voters. The candidates, and their audience, would do well to study U.S. history, especially the recent history of U.S. terrorism. They would learn that domestic terrorists are not Muslims; they are Christians, born and bred in the United States - white supremacists, members of the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, anti-government extremists, and violent anti-abortion extremists, as in last Friday's deadly attack on an abortion clinic in Colorado.
The virulent anti-Muslim comments by the Republican candidates are breathtakingly ugly. Donald Trump leads the pack in pandering to anti-Muslim fear and hate. Trump would create a federal database to register America's estimated three-million Muslims. He has suggested that Muslims must carry identification cards noting their faith. He has falsely accused Muslims of celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers. Or consider Ben Carson, who has singled out Muslims exclusively for disqualification to run for president. To Carson, Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution. Carson has also made other the inflammatory remarks, including dehumanizing Syrian refugees as "rabid dogs." Jeb Bush has made explicit this pro-Christian, anti-Muslim sentiment, suggesting that he would give asylum to Christians, not Muslims. John Kasich has proposed a federal agency to spread "Judeo-Christian Western values." Marco Rubio says that if he becomes president he would close mosques as well as Muslim cafes and diners. Rand Paul would impose heightened scrutiny on Muslim immigrants, not Christians. So would Chris Christie, who has refused to allow Syrian immigrants to settle in New Jersey. Ted Cruz has demonized Sharia Law as being a huge problem in the U.S. Finally, Mike Huckabee can't think of anyone except Muslims targeting innocent civilians, and has called Islam "a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet."
Do these candidates appreciate the gravity of their remarks? Are they not aware of the incendiary nature of their comments? Are they clueless, or indifferent, to the fact that acts of domestic terrorism committed by non-Muslims pose a far greater threat to America than international terror groups? They haven't called for domestic terrorists to register and carry special identification; they wouldn't bar a member of the Ku Klux Klan, or the American Nazi Party, or a violent white supremacist, or an anti-government extremist, from running for president; they wouldn't brand non-Muslims seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape oppression "rabid dogs"; they wouldn't bar non-Muslims from freely worshiping at their church, or dining wherever they chose.
These candidates know that unfavorable views of Islam have grown substantially since 2001, up over 18 points, aided undoubtedly by racist backlash against a non-white president with a Muslim-sounding middle name, and they are deliberately stoking those fears and prejudices. Nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans believe, along with Carson, that a Muslim is not qualified to be president. Half the voters in Iowa, the first primary locale, do not think Islam should be legal in the U.S. This is the rabid base that the Republican candidates are tapping into.
The threat of terrorism in the U.S. is not from Muslims, as recent history shows. Timothy McVeigh was a non-Muslim domestic terrorist who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 killing 168 people and injuring over 600. McVeigh's act of terrorism is the most devastating act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. The Charleston Church massacre last June in which nine people were killed was committed by a white supremacist. The killing of two Las Vegas police officers last year was committed by white anti-government extremists. A dozen people have been killed in attacks by non-Muslims on abortion clinics in the U.S. since 1993, including the three who lost their lives last Friday in Colorado. The racial terrorism by the Ku Klux Klan, a group characterized by Justice Clarence Thomas as a "terrorist organization, " is well known, including lynching of thousands of African-Americans.
The inflammatory rhetoric spewed by these Republican candidates that the security of the United States is at risk unless the U.S. closes its borders to Muslims is not only ugly, it's dangerous . They would exclude Muslims, but welcome non-Muslims, even those potentially violent haters who pose a clear and present danger. In a period when fear and prejudice can be easily manipulated for political gain, one would think that individuals who aspire to the highest office in the land should be extra careful about what they say, and not show themselves, and the country, as a place that is hostile to religion. To be sure, there is a sick logic to candidates exploiting religious prejudices to win votes. The candidates know that when people are fearful, discontented, or paranoid, they can be easily provoked by anti-Muslim rhetoric. The real question - the scariest question of all - is whether any of these fear-mongering candidates might actually be elected to lead this country?