A new report commissioned by the legal advocacy organization Muslim Advocates found a sharp uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric in electoral races across the country, according to The Guardian on Monday. The report analyzed more than 80 campaigns from the local to national level that had engaged in anti-Muslim messaging.
“We’ve seen anti-Muslim candidates running in every region,” Scott Simpson, public advocacy director of Muslim Advocates, told the Guardian. “We’ve seen them running at every level of office, from the school and planning boards all the way to governor and Congress. We’ve seen it in liberal places and conservative places. It has really taken root and become very widespread.”
The report found that many of the candidates, almost all of which were for Republicans and half of which were running for positions in Congress, used similar rhetoric and conspiracy theories in their Islamophobic messages.
From the Guardian:
More than a third [of the campaigns] claimed that Muslims are inherently violent or pose an imminent threat, the report found, and have propagated the existence of a Muslim conspiracy to take over communities or infiltrate government. Just under a third of the candidates considered have called for Muslims to be denied basic rights or declared that Islam is not a religion.
As alarming as this is, HuffPost pointed out that many of the campaigns the report profiled weren’t successful. They write:
While 34 of these campaigns are still active, the results for the other 46 went heavily against those candidates: 27 anti-Muslim candidates lost their races, eight dropped out, and one was recalled. Only two of them ultimately won, both in 2017.
Meanwhile, the report predicts that many of the still-active candidates will lose, with “only one or two newly elected anti-Muslim candidates” ― meaning most of the winners would likely be incumbents.
But it’s also possible that the general electorate is not who these candidates are speaking to. Trump himself won his election with only a fraction of the general electorate, and less than the majority of the popular vote.
“The rhetoric is not popular with American voters,” Simpson told the Guardian. “It is popular with a really isolated and very extreme part of the electorate that is very hostile to Muslims, that will parrot back the most out-of-touch conspiracy theories about American Muslims without even thinking twice.”
This is probably the report’s most disturbing conclusion. Elections are far from the only indicator that hate is on the rise, and can lead to violent crimes or worse. Hate crimes in American cities have risen for four straight years, increasing by 12 percent in 2018, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Even if these candidates lose, the damage of their message has already been done.