A congressman who routinely accused American Muslims of being enemies of the United States looks likely to go down in defeat. Another, a former presidential candidate who warned of a wide-ranging Islamic conspiracy to undermine the government, barely won reelection. A third, who espoused the same conspiracy, opted not to run. It’s not been the greatest night for Congress’ anti-Islam caucus.
That caucus was a legislative bastion of support for a group of self-anointed counterterrorism analysts that tried to convince the FBI and the military that the Islamic religion was to blame for terrorism. That group is already beleaguered: President Obama has ordered its teachings removed from counterterrorism training across the government, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declares it “totally objectionable.” Now it’s got fewer allies in Congress to fall back upon.
Allen West isn’t conceding defeat in Florida’s 18th district, but challenger Patrick Murphy appears to have beaten the Tea Party favorite. According to Politico, Murphy’s narrow vote total is larger than the margin that would trigger a recount. If West has lost his race — perhaps the most lavishly funded among House candidates — the House will have lost one of its most prominent exponents of a global Islamic threat.
West, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, professes that Islamist terrorism is merely authentic Islam. “This is not a perversion, [the terrorists] are doing exactly what this book [the Quran] says,” West told a 2010 audience, following a disquisition on Charles Martel’s fight against a Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732. When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the 2010 construction of an Islamic cultural center a few blocks from Ground Zero, West dismissed Bloomberg as ignorant of “the history of Islamic conquest against western civilization.” West has been unapologetic about the act that ended his Army career: firing a gun near the head of a Iraqi detainee in 2003; Glenn Beck dubbed West “a modern-day ronin.”
He stepped it up after winning his election in 2011. In June 2011, West brought a Florida organization called Citizens for National Security to a congressional building to accuse thousands of American Muslims of being part of a “fifth column” based on innuendo about the Muslim Brotherhood. West said the group’s work was “about the protection of each and every American citizen.” Later that year, West sneered at GOP presidential contender Herman Cain for apologizing for endorsing the banning of mosques. Back home at Broward County, West parried an American Muslim’s criticisms by saying, “You attacked us!”
West may have lost. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) didn’t. But Bachmann won reelection with just 3,000 votes out of 350,000, months after she abandoned a presidential bid that brought her national fame. It also brought opprobrium for Bachmann’s own anti-Muslim theories. In June, Bachmann accused an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of being part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate and undermine the government, based solely on the associations of the aide’s family members. John McCain and other prominent Republicans denounced Bachmann for it.
Bachmann is likely to remain a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Her colleague, Sue Myrick of North Carolina, won’t. In 2010, Myrick warned of a “concerted effort on the part of radical Islamists to infiltrate our major institutions” in the introduction to a book called Muslim Mafia; she said the briefings she received on the committee convinced her “it’s worse than I thought.” Yet Myrick decided in February not to seek reelection. And reinforcements are hard to find: an Islam critic and potential ally, Iraq veteran Ilario Pantano, didn’t make it out of the GOP primary in his North Carolina congressional race.
It remains to be seen what the loss of West and Myrick — and perhaps a chastening of Bachmann — will mean for the cottage industry of pseudoscholarship connecting “mainstream” Muslims to terrorism, as FBI analyst William Gawthrop put it in 2011. But it’s another example of the emerging political costs to embracing irrationality.
One of the leaders of the anti-Islam movement, Robert Spencer, was in a dark mood following Tuesday’s election. “The official denial about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat will continue, with training material for the FBI and Department of Homeland Security required to retail politically correct fictions about Islam,” he wrote. “This will leave the nation in ever-increasing danger of being blindsided by a jihad attack that could have been prevented had a willful ignorance about the motives and goals of jihadists not been enforced by officials at the highest level.” Once, Spencer had attention-grabbing advocates in Congress to support these views. Today, those ranks are a bit thinner — while the bete noire of the Sharia panic crowd, Barack Obama, gets ready for another four years in the White House. The lonely crusade of the anti-Islam set just got a little lonelier.