Just ahead of Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights advocacy organization is calling on all candidates to use the event as an opportunity to speak out against the wave of anti-Muslim and bigoted behavior that has been documented across the nation in recent weeks.
In a statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) attributed the recent and "unprecedented" spike in hate crimes at least in part to anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused by GOP presidential candidates like Donald Trump, who last week called for a complete ban on Muslims entering America. The group also cited Ben Carson, who earlier claimed that followers of the Islamic faith should never be allowed to be president. Though some rivals of Trump and Carson spoke out against those specific comments, none have gone out of their way to broadly—and unequivocally—condemn the pattern of attacks directed at mosques and individuals who are, or are perceived as being, Muslim.
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On Monday, CAIR launched a Change.org petition calling on the Republican National Committee (RNC) to denounce Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric within the Republican Party. Though nearly two thousand people had signed the petition as of this writing, the group was not optimistic that either the RNC or the Republican candidates, who will enjoy a large audience on national television on Tuesday, would submit to the call or stand against the hateful rhetoric that has become a mainstay among GOP voters, Republican operatives, and self-identified Conservative commentators.
"Unfortunately," said the CAIR, "we anticipate tonight's debate to include a continuation of the Muslim-bashing we have heard from some Republican presidential candidates in recent weeks. While those who promote and exploit anti-Muslim bigotry may see their poll numbers increase temporarily, their un-American rhetoric is causing long-term harm to our nation's image and to ordinary American Muslims who are bearing the brunt of the hatred generated by pandering to fear and hysteria."