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Commentary

RNC gambles with anti-Sharia platform

Special To The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:49 AM

On Tuesday, delegates to the Republican National Convention voted in support of the 60-page party platform that has been described as "the most conservative in modern history." An ultra-right wing ideology has overtaken the Republican agenda, evidenced by the platform's extreme positions on decisive issues, including immigration, women's rights, foreign policy and even Sharia law, the Muslim religious code.

While Democrats may have taken Muslim voters for granted, the Republicans have altogether discounted them to their detriment. In an election that could be decided by razor-thin margins, the proposed GOP platform is alienating undecided Muslim voters. The attempt to galvanize the party base with anti-Muslim rhetoric could backfire. Over the course of Mitt Romney's campaign, anti-Muslim bigotry has been used to extol votes and spur fundraising efforts.

The GOP platform aims to ban foreign law with an eye on Sharia. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has already struck down Oklahoma's "Save Our State" ballot initiative which banned foreign law, including Sharia. Any other court would likely rule the same regarding baseless claims that Sharia will take over American courts. In fact, the Quran exhorts Muslims to follow the law of the land. Therefore, no conflict between Sharia and U.S. law can exist as the U.S. Constitution and federal and state laws take precedence over any other law, including Sharia.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party's own principles of smaller government, freedom from governmental intrusion, free markets and freedom of religion are compromised by the GOP platform's stance on foreign law. The GOP platform with respect to Sharia is far-fetched and out of touch with reality.

Deepa Kumar, professor and author of "Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire," said to Alternet: "The discourse about 'Muslim terrorism' is so dominant in this country, and Muslims have been so thoroughly vilified, that no savvy politician is going to come to the defense of Muslims. To do so, you would actually have to have principles and ethics, both of which have little place in our money dominated electoral system." She continued, "The Democrats at best stay silent and at worst tacitly add to this climate. At the broader level, this is because both Democrats and Republicans share a common vision for U.S. foreign policy."

The Republican delegates' official adoption of an anti-Muslim platform, will likely catalyze Muslim voters to cast a ballot against Romney. The GOP anti-Sharia position has led to a major uptick in Muslim voter registration campaigns across the country.

While the Muslim-bashing tactic worked in the 2010 election cycle in many parts of the country, it is a risky proposition for the GOP because of the population dynamics in many swing states. In Karl Rove's latest poll, which shows state-by-state percentages, the race is neck and neck for the Electoral College in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina. All these states have swells of Muslim voters, so the GOP strategy is a huge gamble.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that nearly a quarter of voters remain undecided. Bottom line: The election is still up for grabs. President Obama's mediocre record during his term in the White House and backtracking on campaign promises are reasons Muslims may not give him another shake. The Muslim vote is an opportunity, not a liability.

Incidentally, this election, like 2000, could be decided by a single state and a few hundred votes. If so, by pushing an anti-Muslim agenda on its party platform, the Republicans are purposefully sideswiping their Muslim constituents and gambling with potential votes. Perhaps the Republican National Convention should have been moved from the Forum to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino because in this high-stakes election the GOP is betting on the wild card of ignorance and racism.


Ahmed Bedier is the founder and president of United Voices for America, an organization dedicated to bringing people of color to politics. Nadia B. Ahmed is a Denver-based attorney. You can connect with Bedier directly at http://facebook.com/bedierusa.
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