Donald Trump's call to bar Muslims from entering the United States got all the attention, but an even uglier thread of anti-Muslim bigotry exists inside Ted Cruz's campaign.
The team of foreign policy advisers he announced on March 17 - "trusted friends who will form a core of our broader national security team," Cruz called them - includes some of the most fanatical anti-Muslim activists in America. The list got some attention when it was unveiled because of its leader, Frank Gaffney, a prominent anti-Muslim writer. But the campaign has enlisted a deeper bench of aides with records that are, if anything, even more shocking.
Gaffney's views (including the suspicion that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim) are well known. He runs the Centre for Security Policy, which specialises in dire warnings about the imminent danger that Muslims will impose sharia law on the US. A few months ago, for instance, he declared that sharia adherents were conducting operations "aimed at penetrating and subverting of our civil society institutions and governmental policy-making".
This was, he wrote, part of the "collective effort of sharia-adherent Muslims and their enablers around the world to force 'non-believers' to submit to that toxic ideology". Sharia, he wrote, not only obliges observant Muslims "to engage in jihad or holy war" but that "where practicable, sharia dictates they must do so through terrifying violence".
Previously, the author suggested that Muslims who observe sharia should be prosecuted for sedition.
He wants to stop all immigration not just from Syria and Iraq but also from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan.
The radical views on Cruz's team do not stop there. Retired Lieutenant General William "Jerry" Boykin also was named an adviser after having said things such as "Islam is evil. Islam is an evil concept". As he puts it, "Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections," because "those following the dictates of the Koran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with sharia law."
He's also declared that Christians should "go on the offensive" to prevent Muslims in America from building any more mosques. (Boykin also preached a couple of years ago that when Jesus returns, he will be carrying an AR-15 assault rifle.)
If a leading presidential campaign included advisers who made comparable statements about Jews or African Americans, it is a safe bet the outcry would have been far more intense and lasted a lot longer.
Two of Gaffney's colleagues at his centre, Claire Lopez and Fred Fleitz, are also on Cruz's team. A recent example of Lopez' attitude and style was her commentary on President Obama's speech at a Baltimore mosque in early February. She began her diatribe this way: "Perhaps it's because he was making faces in Koran class instead of paying attention to his teacher. Or maybe he just has a selective memory about what he was taught as a young Muslim student in Indonesia. Whatever the reason, President Barack Obama got a lot of things factually wrong."
Her piece promoted one of the anti-Muslim movement's standard themes - that mosques are outposts of terror and communities should not let them be built.
"A mosque is not simply the Muslim version of a church, synagogue or temple," she wrote. "Mosques are established not only as places of prayer and worship, but also as centres for indoctrination, the dispensing of shariah justice, the stockpiling of weapons, and the launching of jihad."
Still another member of Cruz's team is Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a regular contributor to National Review. McCarthy, whose claim to fame is that he prosecuted the 1993 World Trade Centre bombers, regularly argues that terrorism is embedded in Muslims' religious beliefs - that there is an "irrefutable nexus between Islamic scripture, sharia supremacism, and jihadist terror".
Among believers' different visions of Islam, he wrote in one column, "the most dynamic is the conviction that Islam is an alternative civilisation determined to conquer the West by force, by political pressure, by cultural aggression, and by exploiting Western civil liberties (liberties that are forbidden in the sharia societies Islamists would impose)".
Though Cruz's campaign has the clearest connections, it is not alone in having associations with the anti-Muslim advocates. Walid Phares, an adviser to Donald Trump, writes in Future Jihad that "Islamic fundamentalists" have successfully infiltrated Muslim immigrant communities in the US, Canada, and Western Europe, have "taken control of the communities' establishments on both sides of the Atlantic", and "have moved deeper inside the national tissue".
The muted reaction to Cruz's selections reflects the different yardstick we apply to anti-Muslim views in contrast to bias against other minorities. If a leading presidential campaign included advisers who made comparable statements about Jews or African Americans, it is a safe bet the outcry would have been far more intense and lasted a lot longer.
But this isn't troubling only as a matter of values. Experts overwhelmingly agree that the kind of policies promoted by the anti-Islam noise machine - such as Cruz's call for surveillance and special police patrols in Muslim neighbourhoods, or Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the country - will not lead to more effective counterterrorism efforts.
Treating Muslim communities as a potential enemy population simply reinforces the extremist narrative. It says exactly what the terrorists want Muslims here and around the world to believe: that America is at war with Islam, and Muslims have to strike back.
Cruz should not be listening to "national security advisers" like Boykin, Gaffney and his colleagues. Their views violate fundamental American principles of freedom of belief, respect for law and equality of all people. Their advice will not make the nation more secure. And nobody who embraces such ideas or their authors should be president of the US.
- Washington Post, Bloomberg