Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
The flagship of the conservative movement didn’t cover itself with glory recently when it ran a screed against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Now, there is plenty to criticize Christie about. He has eviscerated the state budget and launched a campaign against the public school system and its employees.
But, of course, that’s not why two prominent conservatives in the National Review went after him. Instead, they are angry with him for being—hold your breath—too pro-Muslim. This, they say, disqualifies him for consideration as Mitt Romney’s running mate.
“In short, Christie has hugged a terrorist organization member, abridged free-speech rights, scorned concern over Islamization, and opposed law-enforcement counterterrorism efforts,” write Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson, two leading lights of the Islamophobia industry. “Whenever an issue touching on Islam arises, Christie takes the Islamist side against those—the DHS, state senators, the NYPD, even the ACLU—who worry about lawful Islamism eroding the fabric of American life.”
As the blog Loonwatch points out, this is all rather thin gruel.
“A perusal of the authors’ case against Christie reveals it as comically weak, full of highly questionable characterizations and buttressed by links that don’t actually demonstrate what they’re supposed to,” says the blog. “In a typical example, they criticize Christie for voicing support for Mohammed Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, ‘on the eve of his deportation hearing for not hiding an Israeli conviction for membership in Hamas.’ They do not mention that the hearing resulted in Qatanani being cleared of charges.”
And the centerpiece of Pipes and Emerson’s litany of accusations is risible: Christie’s appointment of an American Muslim, Sohail Mohammed, as a state superior court judge. Responding to state lawmakers who were grilling Mohammed, Christie appropriately said: “This Shariah law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
In publishing the piece, the National Review has done us a service, however. It has demonstrated that beneath its veneer of intellectualism is thinly veiled racism. If you have to join the conservative movement, you better adhere to white Christian values, even if it means going through an extreme makeover (see the cases of Governors Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal). Both the base and the intellectual high priests hold such beliefs, partly explaining the loathing of President Obama.
“The members of the Obama-is-Muslim congregation number as many as one-third of all Republicans,” writes John Feffer in a Foreign Policy in Focus column. “A recent poll found that only 14 percent of Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believe that the president is Christian.”
Tis a pity for the Republicans because they’re driving away possible natural allies. American Muslims are often conservative on social matters and some fiscal issues—qualities that should make them gravitate to the GOP. “Given their commonalities, Republicans don’t need to make drastic changes to win back at least some Muslims, but rather address the roots of the Islamophobic rhetoric coming from within their party,” writes Omar Sacirbey for the Common Ground News Service. Sacirbey adds, “Tackling stereotypes within the party would go a long way,” and he praises Governor Christie for pointing the way.
But the National Review, by tarring Christie, shows once again that for conservatives, prejudice seems to take precedence over building a big tent.
While National Review recognizes that the most noxious form of anti-black prejudice is beyond the pale, since it fired John Derbyshire for saying that white parents should make sure their kids avoid blacks, the magazine, by publishing this piece, shows that it is all too comfortable with the anti-Muslim rhetoric that swirls around the conservative camp.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Austerity is Killing Europe."
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