By Amitabh Pal on May 04, 2012

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."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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