Magazine article New Internationalist

Tea and Paranoia

Magazine article New Internationalist

Tea and Paranoia

Article excerpt

'It's time to take our country back!' is the rallying cry of the Tea Party, the rightwing 'grassroots' movement in the US aligned with an influential section of the Republican Party.

'In our country, we don't have fringe anti-immigrant parties,' says John L Esposito, an expert on international and Islamic affairs at Georgetown University, Washington DC. 'There's now a significant sector [of anti-immigrant figures] in our mainstream political parties.'

He believes that politicians and media commentators are taking advantage of fears around race held by a surprising number of people - for example, by directly linking ethnicity with crime, or immigration with unemployment. you look at who votes for [anti-immigrant candidates], they're not all ignorant "redneck" people.'

Just as in Europe, politicians in the US are taking advantage of worries around the country's Muslim population. The backlash against plans to build a 'Ground Zero Mosque' (in reality, an interfaith cultural centre blocks away from the World Trade Center site), or the furore generated by Terry Jones (an obscure Florida pastor with a miniscule congregation who burnt a copy of the Qur'an) has helped to encourage hostility. Republican presidential candidates, including Newt Gingritch, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, have questioned the loyalty of US Muslims while on the campaign trail.

Esposito recalls: 'When Mitt Romney ran for office in 2005, he aligned himself with the possibility that, maybe, one should wiretap mosques in America. Not wiretap a mosque where there's some evidence of a problem, but to proactively do this.'

Talat Hamdani is a lawyer and human rights activist of Pakistani heritage. Her son, Salman, a New York police cadet, lost his life in the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. She has been present at the ongoing congressional hearings of the Homeland Security Committee on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism. …

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