Excerpts from Press Call with Rep. Andre Carson, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Iraq War Vet Shah Chowdhury
December 10, 2015
The out-of-touch and extreme positions against Muslims from the Republican presidential candidates do nothing short of alienating Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad—many who are often on the front lines fighting terror. The GOP’s rhetoric holds severe consequences—from helping our enemies recruit more fighters, to encouraging violence against Muslim-Americans at home. Today, Congressmen Andre Carson and Keith Ellison and Vote Vets Senior Advisor Shah Chowdhury, an Iraq War veteran, held a press conference call to discuss how the Republican Party’s rhetoric against Muslims and radical policy proposals undermine our effort to fight terror. Read excerpts from the press call as prepared below.
Congressman Andre Carson
The fact is that there are many Muslim-Americans who serve in our law enforcement community, in our intelligence community, in our armed forces, who help keep America and the global community safe. We also rely on our Muslim foreign allies in our global fight against terrorists. To view all Muslims as a threat is disrespectful to the Muslims who serve our country with distinction shows a lack of maturity and nuance. Casting aspersions on all Muslims is discriminatory and un-American.
It also makes us less safe. The rhetoric of Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and the Republicans running for president helps radicalize our enemies and plays into the hands of ISIS. ISIS tells its followers that America is at war with all Muslims, when the fact is, we are a pluralistic and welcoming society proud of our Muslim citizens and allies. The dichotomy between being American and being Muslim is a false one. I am both. I am a proud Muslim and proud to serve my country as a U.S. Congressman.
Hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. Sadly, this is not a surprise. The rhetoric from the Republican Party has contributed to a climate of fear, racism and hatred. Trump, Cruz, Rubio and the others have fanned the flames of bigotry.
Just a few days ago I received a death threat in my own office. We have to attribute this at least in part, not to an explicit call for violence, but to the toxic anti-Muslim environment created by the Republicans. The language used by these presidential candidates is un-presidential and its spreading to other politicians in the Republican Party who are joining the bandwagon and fanning the flames.
It’s always concerning getting these threats. But threats aren’t going to stop me from serving my country, from serving on the Intelligence Committee, and from being a proud Muslim-American. And threats aren’t going to stop millions of brave, patriotic Muslim-Americans who love both their faith and their country.
Congressman Keith Ellison
Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been shocked and distraught by the sort of rhetoric that we’ve seen from the Republican field targeting Muslim-Americans. This is not an isolated problem that can only be pinned on Donald Trump. I think part of the problem with Trump is that the media is so focused on him, that they’re giving the other candidates a free pass for their own anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Jeb Bush called for screening refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict based on religion, saying, “I think our focus ought to be on the Christians.” Ted Cruz also called for Christian refugees to be allowed asylum in the United States, but not Muslims. Ben Carson compared refugees fleeing terror in Syria to rabid dogs, and said that a Muslim-American should not be President. Marco Rubio compared Muslims to 'members of the Nazi Party,’ and went further than Trump’s plan to close mosques, arguing that diners and cafes may also need to be closed in response to Paris. Chris Christie said he would refuse even three-year-old orphan refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
And that’s just the folks running for president. We’d be here all day if I had to address the things that Republican politicians across the country are saying. But this is more just a political strategy to play off people’s fears. It’s a fig leaf for the fact that the Republican Party hasn’t offered many ideas to fight against ISIL / Daesh beyond what the Obama administration is already doing.
The most common things that they call for – enlisting a broad coalition of nations, ramping up airstrikes against ISIL / Daesh -controlled territory, and supporting the Free Syrian Army and other regional allies fighting against ISIL / Daesh – are things that the president is already doing.
It seems like the only way to distinguish themselves is through extreme rhetoric. This sort of rhetoric, and these sort of discriminatory and un-American policy proposals, are not only shameful and wrong, they are dangerous. Their words encourage acts of violence here at home.
These words also act as recruitment tools and propaganda opportunities for our enemies, and they alienate Muslim-American communities in the U.S. and abroad who are often our first line of defense against attacks.
Iraq War Vet Shah Chowdhury
I never imagined I’d see the day a leading candidate for President of the United States would call for banning all Muslims from coming to the United States. If I had the chance, I’d ask Mr. Trump if he wouldn’t have wanted me to return home after the 15 months I served in Iraq? Would he want to kick my cousin, Shaniyat, out of the Marine Corps? Would he ask my cousin Adil, an NYPD Officer to turn in his badge? How about my other first cousin, Arif, an Air Force veteran, would he tell him to leave the country after his service?
Donald Trump’s language is alarming, but he is isn’t alone. You hear his words and tone echoed from extremist candidates across the country.
When I was serving in Iraq – we needed to have the trust of the local community in order to succeed. When I was on patrol checking for IEDs by the side of the road, I received warnings from the local community when they saw bombs being planted. If I hadn’t received those warnings, who knows what would have happened. When our leaders denigrate Muslims, they undermine that trust and put more lives at risk.
We should be lifting up peaceful Muslim communities in the Middle East, not alienating and denigrating them. Instead of using this sort of counterproductive language and exploiting people’s fear for political gain, all politicians should be working with the president to present a unified front against the threat that ISIS poses.