Help! We’ve been infiltrated by extremists!
This is the latest cry from Republican Representative Michele Bachmann, the women who gives Sarah Palin a run for her money when it comes to the utterance of inanities. But for once, Bachmann’s right, though not, perhaps, in the way that she means.
Bachmann, I suspect, spends her evenings (and for all I know, her days), browsing the websites of professional conspiracy theorists, and her latest infiltration was one supposedly performed, of course, by Muslims (previous culprits have been atheists and communists). The centrepiece of her demand (she was joined by a few of her clownish congressional colleagues in her demented witch hunt) is one of Hillary Clinton’s aides, Huma Abedin. Bachmann cited Abedin’s “known immediate family connections to foreign extremist organizations”.
Senator John McCain called her out shortly thereafter, pointing out that Abedin’s father has been dead for 20 years. More importantly, the allegations were basically made up. Abedin’s father’s work was supported by an organisation which had contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood. If that many degrees of contact constitute association with the Muslim Brotherhood, I’m pretty sure I’d be ‘guilty’ as well! McCain called the accusations “unwarranted and unfounded”, “sinister”, “unspecified and unsubstantiated”, and containing “no logic, no basis, and no merit”. He’s right, and there is something very frightening about Bachmann and her colleagues’ efforts to slander people so publicly.
Bachmann’s various efforts to purge government of those with whom she disagrees (seriously, how can someone who describes themselves as a socialist—a social and economic outlook—constitute some kind of existential threat to the United States?!) couple well with her Party’s general approach to those who they regard as social and religious deviants. I had to switch off my computer mid way through watching a “Faith and Family” forum last fall that featured most Republican Party presidential candidates (Romney and Huntsman stayed away), because I could tell that the Republican Party’s standard-bearers were working themselves, little by little down a chain of logic forged in some fevered, fundamentalist brain, towards the assertion that only Christians have a place in the associational life in our nation, and the rights that go with that life.
McCain is now taking heat from other fanatics in his party. Wes Harris, a Tea Party advocate from Arizona, was quoted as saying, “Have you ever read the Quran? I suggest you do so, because anyone that is a Muslim is a threat to this country, and that’s a fact. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If they are a Muslim they have to follow the Quran. That’s their religion and that’s their doctrine”.
I’m reminded of Thomas Paine’s words on Christianity: “What is it that we have learned from this pretended thing called revealed religion? Nothing that is useful to man, and every thing that is dishonourable to his Maker. What is it the Bible teaches us?—rapine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us?—to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith”.
There are as many varieties of Muslim faith as there are Christian, and while I’m personally inclined towards Paine’s view that “any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system” (which pretty much covers them all), it is as insulting to Muslims that they should be fundamentally associated with those who commit murder and perpetrate prejudice in the name of their faith as it is that all Christians should be tarred by association with the likes of Bachmann for her bigotry or Bush for the mass murder he ordered in Iraq after his personal consultation with his god in the Oval Office.
Defining the parameters of participation according to faith, gender, race, economic status, and moral outlook is a bad idea. It is also dangerous, divisive, and an affront to our democracy. Bachmann and her colleagues should be ashamed, and our political leadership should be more voluble in defending these unhinged assaults on people’s rights.