The proposed thirteen story Islamic community cultural center to be located about two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center has become a hair-trigger issue for many House and Senate candidates. The debate even became a focal point in the Second Congressional District of North Carolina after now-winner Renee Ellmers created an entire television advertisement denigrating her opposition, Bob Etheridge, for not maintaining an opposition stance against the building of the Islamic Center. Unfortunately, the pressure inherent in this single-issue smear campaign seems to have pushed former representative Etheridge to speak out against the center. In the end, Ellmers won by less than one percent.
Of the 141 candidates opposed, only Marvin Scott campaigned head-to-head with a Muslim-American candidate, André Carson of Indiana’s Seventh Congressional District; however, Marvin Scott, eventually only garnering 37.8% of the vote, was not among the many primarily Republican anti-mosque candidates who won yesterday. André Carson, who has been serving in the U.S. House since the special election in 2008, remains as one of two current Muslim-Americans in Congress, Keith Ellison from Minnesota being the other.
Pennsylvania and Florida saw the strongest contingents of anti-Park 51 cultural center candidates elected. Pennsylvania’s eight elected candidates were nearly doubled by Florida, where thirteen of sixteen were elected. Incidentally, the three that lost were running against fellow anti-Park 51 candidates. Surprisingly, New York only saw five of fifteen elected into office.
While determining refuge rulings, Oklahoma international law amendment question 755 mandates that courts rely on federal or state laws when handing down decisions concerning cases that would ultimately prohibit citizens from seeking refuge under international law or Sharia Law. This measure was the cumulative apex of these Islamophobic campaigns, as it eventually passed by a majority of seventy percent.
Despite the veiled white nationalism of these campaigns, the Muslim community remains an emerging ventricle of the contemporary United States, and regardless of the outcome of the Park 51 controversy, its representation in Congress is vital to our democracy.
Even though openly Islamophobic candidates were elected yesterday, and even though Oklahoma took a racist stance against Sharia Law, progress will be sustained as André Carson reclaims his seat as only the second Muslim-American to serve in Congress.