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Romney Meets with the Islamophobes

Romney is not going to pick Chris Christie to be his running-mate. How do I know? He told me. 

Ha! Just kidding. Got you for a second there, didn’t I, Andrea Mitchell? You should have seen the look on your face!

No, I can tell you that Romney is not going to pick Christie because the New Jersey governor does things like host an Iftar dinner for New Jersey Muslims and then use the occasion to call out fellow Republicans for being “bigots” against Muslims. “I’ll tell you,” said Christie, “there is a gaze of intolerance that is going around our country that is disturbing to me.” 

Those blunt remarks came almost exactly one year after Christie went after conservatives who think Muslims want to implement Sharia law in U.S. courts. At the time, Christie was being attacked for nominating a Muslim judge to the state superior court. “This Sharia law business is crap,” declared Christie. “It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” 

I disagree with Christie in a lot of areas, but I think his willingness to call out Islamophobes would be a great reason to make him a running-mate. However, I am not Mitt Romney, who held a private meeting with a group of “the crazies” just last week, according to Politico. Participants included James Dobson and Gary Bauer, who wrote a letter to John Boehner defending Michele Bachmann’s Muslim witch hunt and praised her “good judgment, undeniable courage, and great patriotism” for “bravely demanding answers to matters essential to the safety of the American people and our Armed Forces.” 

Also included in the Romney meeting was retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the newly-hired vice president of the Family Research Council and a leader of the anti-Muslim crowd. Boykin, who thinks there should be no mosques allowed in the U.S. and who argues that Muslims are not entitled to First Amendment rights, helped develop a 2010 report assessing the Sharia “threat.” According to Boykin’s report, the Muslim Brotherhood “has succeeded in penetrating our educational, legal and political systems, as well as top levels of government, intelligence, the media, and U.S. military, virtually paralyzing our ability to respond effectively.” 

It’s possible that Romney met with this group to tell Boykin and others to cut out their anti-Muslim activities, or to at least keep it down. We don’t know for sure, because the meeting was private. We do know, however, that when asked the next day about Bachmann’s efforts to root out Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in the federal government—a campaign that even John Boehner and John McCain have strongly denounced—Romney took a pass

Meanwhile, on Monday a mosque in Joplin, MO—the town that was nearly decimated by a tornado in 2011—burned to the ground. Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, but an earlier fire at the mosque in July was determined to be the result of arson. And in Tennessee, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro will finally be open for prayers today after a two-year legal battle by opponents who sought to prevent the structure from being built. 

Many political observers have thought that Romney would be sympathetic to the concerns of American Muslims, since he is part of a minority faith community that has experienced severe persecution in its history. And for all we know, he may be personally sympathetic. But Romney has so far been unwilling to stand up to the purveyors of fear and hate in his party, and to call the crazies “crazies.”