The New Islamophobia.

There's been some shock over this statement from Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, who is currently running for the GOP nomination in the governor's race:

You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it.

If you're surprised by this remark, it's because you're not reading what they're reading. The right-wing media is full of sentiments like this, bigoted remarks you simply could not say about any other religion without serious social consequences. Just take this yesterday, from Andy McCarthy:

The Ground Zero mosque project is not about religious tolerance. We permit thousands of mosques in our country, and Islam is not a religion. Islam is an ideology that has some spiritual elements, but strives for authoritarian control of every aspect of human life -- social, political, and economic.

McCarthy then links to a screed purporting to link Imam Faisal Rauf, whose organization is spearheading the project, to the Muslim Brotherhood through Glenn Beck-style free conspiracy theorizing. But he need not -- he's already working backward from the conclusion that Islam is "not a religion" because it "strives for authoritarian control of every aspect of human life." (Christianity or Judaism for example, would never tell you exactly what you're allowed to eat or whom you're allowed to sleep with.) But the point is that while all bad people are not Muslims, all Muslims are bad. Why bother with a detailed conspiracy theory?

As one of Josh Marshall's readers suggests, what's happened here is exactly what happened with torture, Gitmo, and using civilian trials to try terrorists. Free from the shackles of responsible governance and having to defend a Bush administration that insisted on characterizing Islam as a "religion of peace," they can give free rein to their prejudices and preferences. Hence the myth that Bush didn't have a default policy of trying most terrorism suspects in civilian court, the end of the once bipartisan agreement over closing Gitmo, and the forthright embrace of torture now that there's no need to defend Bush's insistence that "the United States does not torture." 

Once Republicans take back power, the policy implications of their current sensibilities will be unsustainable. But it will be too late, because they will have created a constituency that demands them.

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