Perhaps one of the most interesting political backlashes against Islamophobic ads happened in Ohio where the Republican challenger for the State Treasurer, Josh Mandel, launched anattack against the incumbent, Kevin Boyce, claiming that Boyce showed favoritism in his hiring practices. The crux of the argument was that Boyce’s deputy, Amer Ahmad (disclosure: Ahmad and I were college roommates and remain friends), advertised a position only at his mosque to give preferential treatment to the wife of a lobbyist. Although the claim was debunked, Mandel’s ad is considered one of the most vile of the election cycle. Even prior to the debunking, however, Mandel was roundly criticized within Ohio for demeaning himself and his position. Despite a serious intra-state criticism of Mandel’s tactics, he won. However, I am heartened by a sustained, non-partisan critique of the veiled bigotry of the ad in real time. There was no period of reflection and apology after hatred had taken root. [emphasis added]
The author of the column, Hussein Rashid, gives an example of the opposite way in which politics can (and should) run:
In contrast to this back and forth about Muslims in America, something interesting happened in Calgary, Canada. I believe CNN was the only national news outlet to recognize that Canada’s most conservative city elected a Muslim mayor, in a campaign where his faith was of little importance. The situation is instructive as to how fear, or lack of understanding, does not have to be the defining characteristic of a group of people. The election was about substance, not vitriol. When the question of Nenshi’s religion was raised, there was no relevance to his ability to serve in the office, and the issue was dropped. For an historic event, it received little recognition this side of the border. I have to wonder if it’s because many national news outlets were afraid it would show how shallow their reporting has become when it comes to politics, and especially religion and politics.
I echo his concluding aspirations:
The process of instigating fear against an “other” has been part of politics for a long time. However, it gets even uglier when the “other” is internal, because you’re then fearing your neighbor. Despite the fact that we have ample evidence that Muslims have been instrumentalin foiling attacks on the US, we still have national media asking if we should fear the name of a religion. Fortunately, local news is still playing an important role in trying to keep their communities intact and add intelligence and nuance to the debate. I hope the national media catches up soon, so we can move beyond “Islam-bashing for political gain.”
I also fear for Ohio over the next four years. Someone should be keeping close tabs on EEO and discrimination cases emanating from Ohio state government departments starting in 2011.