WASHINGTON – The two Muslim members serving in Congress stood united Tuesday, denouncing what they call hateful rhetoric and ‘Islamophobia’ targeting Muslims in the 2016 presidential race.
“Now you’re seeing this community question its identity in a very real way,” Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) said at an event at the National Press Club in Washington.
Carson and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) shared personal accounts behind FBI statistics showing a rise in crimes targeting Muslim Americans.
Ellison said the two congressmen are targets of a near-daily barrage of hate tweets and letters from Americans, and even threats from the Islamic State.
“Because we don’t do it the way they say we should do it,” Ellison said. “So we’re dealing with it on both sides.”
Carson pointed to recent examples in Indiana, like the IUPUI student targeted last month in a video and blog as a potential terrorist and vandalism at Islamic Society of North America’s headquarters in Plainfield.
“I think we are seeing these kinds of instances,” Carson said. “But what is most troubling is you have people like Mr. Trump fanning the flames of Islamophobia.”
Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States “until we can figure this out.”
A Washington Post/ABC News poll in March showed 63 percent of Americans thought the ban was the wrong thing to do, but 54 percent of Republicans support the idea.
“Obviously he’s been very successful in the Republican primaries,” Laura Albright said, a professor at the University of Indianapolis. “So we can’t say he’s saying these crazy things. People are voting for him. They have and they continue voting for him, so he does have that kind of popularity. At the same time, there has been a lot of pushback with the things he’s said.”
Carson, who publicly is backing democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, said he’s met Trump and read most of his books.
“His personal persona betrays his rhetoric, which concerns me,” Carson said. “So I think the kind of Machiavellian maneuvering we’re seeing, and to Keith’s point, he is speaking to a segment of our population that is disillusioned with their government. They feel disenfranchised. They feel like they are getting a smaller piece of the American pie as it were.”
Both vowed to highlight candidates’ rhetoric during the 2016 election cycle.
“I caution Muslims against retreating in these kinds of times.”