Unlike a lot of people, it seems, I'm not so sure that George W. Bush is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Cordoba House controversy. That is, while I can appreciate President Bush's care in drawing sharp distinctions between al-Qaeda and the greater Muslim community, it's ultimately the case that under the Bush administration, entire swaths of the Constitution ceased to apply to Muslims, or at least those accused of terrorism. Bush may have been uncomfortable with demagoguing all Muslims, but he wasn't particularly averse to torturing some of them.
If anything, the current GOP campaign against Islam reflects that basic reality; to borrow from my colleague Adam Serwer, "the idea that all American Muslims are not entitled to First Amendment rights is the rational conclusion to the logic that denies Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights to Muslims accused of terrorism." Adam worries that we'll continue down this slippery slope, and so do I; by and large, the public takes its political cues from elites, and when those elites attack Muslims as fundamentally "other," it trickles down to the public at large.
Indeed, we can already see it happening; according to a recent Time survey, 32 percent of Americans don't believe that Muslims should be allowed to run for president, and 28 percent don't believe that Muslims should be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court. Likewise, 34 percent of Americans would oppose a nearby community center if built by Muslims, and 25 percent of Americans would not say that "most Muslims in the United States are patriotic Americans who believe in American values."
I fully expect those numbers to get worse; yes, the Cordoba House controversy will eventually fizzle out, but with slow economic growth and a GOP committed to its anti-Muslim base, we're likely to see a long period of heightened public hostility toward Muslims.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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