Muslims' turn in the 2004 US presidential election

Muslims are a small minority in America … in numbers; and even a smaller minority… in influence. Why, then, do we say it is “their turn” in this presidential campaign?

For over a century, and as late as the Kennedy-Nixon duel in 1960, Catholics had their turn as the “threat” minority in American politics (Smith in 1928; Kennedy in 1960). The possibility of a Catholic president for the United States conjured for many visions of Old Glory flying at the White House… below the yellow and white flag of the Holy See.

Anti-Catholic hate articles and letters had appeared openly for over a century in the American press; that is, until the Catholic minority reached a position of economic power that rendered this open-hatred as politically inopportune. So the haters took their cause to a less visible plane (pulpits, letters…) often in anonymity.

Now that Catholicism has joined the acceptable mélange in America , there is, according to the present generation of hatemonger, a new evil facing this Judeo-Christian nation: Islam. Never mind that Islam is also a monotheistic religion paying homage to the very same and only God.

Last week I received a chain e-mail, a 2004 version of yesteryear’s hate letters that appeared during presidential campaigns. It was forwarded to me by someone I like and respect, although I could hardly say the same about its author, the original e-mailer. “Presumably,” and I venture this presumption in quotations, it’s a letter from a Thomas Segal, retired attorney (?), written to his sons Tom, Kevin, Kirby and Ted… one dealing with “the world situation.” It came to me bearing the subject: The Muslim Threat (A Must-Read Letter).

I am not much for reading any kind of junk e-mail, be it of the commercial, exploitative variety or plain political spam. But it had been forwarded to me by someone I know, which in turn had been forwarded to him by someone else I also know. So I went ahead and read what soon promised to be a hate-piece… just after finishing with the disclaimer in the very first paragraph.

There is really very little to be said about this hate-instigating letter. But dismissing it solely on its negative merits is not quite enough. After all, this e-mail had been forwarded by two people I know, neither a good candidate for hatemongering. So I am compelled to do two things; one, give the rationale as to why I am dismissing the letter as trash; and the other, state my view as to who stands to gain political ground from the dissemination of such malicious Muslim-bashing.

Not only do the generalizations made in the letter defy logic, but the sourcing for the relevant information, including some statistics, is but a joke. For example, Segal claims that “ France is already 20% Muslim and fading fast.” Current data provided by the French government indicates a figure closer to 7%, although that figure might be understated by 1-2% (illegal immigrants), much like our own flawed census’ count of illegal immigrants. Perhaps 8-9% of France ’s population is Muslim… but 20%? So go the misinformation and statements of simplistic ignorance, such as… “Anything else they [Muslims] want Spain to do, will be done.” To boot, these idiocies and inaccuracies are chauvinistically-wrapped in a way that can make any “thinking” American blush.

Who stands to gain from the dissemination of letters of this sort? One candidate for sure: the C-in-C now in power, Crusader Bush. Whether he condemns this type of letter, or remains silent (best bet), rest assured that some of his followers are certain to spread this gospel of hate. Given the mood of the nation, this approach, abhorrent as it may seem, will garner a lot of votes… perhaps enough to win in November’s election.

Just before writing this column I conducted a search to see if, by chance, I could come up with an Internet posting of this letter. And I did!