Dec 5, 2012

Religious Tolerance Wins Big in the Elections

By Saadia Faruqi
Last week, after a fortnight of legal wrangling, House Republican Allen West finally conceded defeat in the race against Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida. Despite spending $17 million in his campaign as opposed to Murphy’s $3.6 million, it seems that the people of Florida have spoken. They no longer want an Islamophobe representing them in Congress.

That it took West two weeks to accept the inevitable can be surprising only to those who haven’t been following his war of words against Islam and Muslims for the time he’s been in office. Earlier this year, in a public forum, his offensive and inaccurate remarks about Islam have been clear indications of his belligerent leanings: “[Islam is a] very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country… Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion.” At another time he has bashed Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) solely because of his religious beliefs, saying Ellison “really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”

Whatever happened to public discourse, freedom of religion and all that new-age rubbish? West isn’t the only politician who just lost a race to more moderate newcomers – although fellow hard line Islamophobe Michele Bachmann held on to her seat by a thread – but his position as a Tea Party favorite and the media coverage he gets everywhere he goes lends his political defeat a huge impact on the future of religious tolerance in the United States. Hate mongers like West and Bachmann realize that united we stand, divided we fall. And these days it seems that Islam is the scapegoat everybody loves to hate. But by voting against him despite his expensive negative campaigning, we the people gave him and his kind a simple message: the very "coexistence" West hates so much is preferable to the religious divide he had been trying to promote. For every person like West spouting hatred, there are dozens of young people across college campuses choosing to share their religious traditions and their meals with others. For every mosque vandalized, there are hundreds of men and women of all faiths getting together to rebuild it. For every politician who calls Islam the enemy, there are many others who respect it as one of three Abrahamic faiths providing enrichment in the lives of millions of Americans. And for that reason, West’s defeat two weeks ago may be a signal of better times ahead – more tolerance, more bridge building, and less spewing of hate for the sake of votes. God Bless America.

Saadia Faruqi is the interfaith liaison for the  women's group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and editor of Interfaith Houston. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ahmadiyya Community or Interfaith Houston. 

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