June 17, 2014 by Darius
Yesterday, an event at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank headed by former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, about Benghazi (really? again?) turned into a collective baiting and verbal abuse of a woman in attendance wearing a Muslim headscarf.
I won’t even deal with the right wing’s ongoing Benghazi industry except to say that it has become more and more detached from reality.
More important is the simple bigotry at work here. When a young woman in the audience wearing a hijab (Muslim headscarf) asked about the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, including eight million in the US, one of the panelists responded by claiming that there are “180 million to 300 million” Muslims around the world “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” The panelist then proceeded to question if the woman in the audience was an American (on the grounds that Americans should be more concerned about the four Americans who died in the Benghazi consulate attack than Muslims) and claimed the peaceful majority of Muslims was irrelevant. Other panelists, including the moderator, then joined in, as did the rest of the audience, cheering and whooping.
I don’t doubt that right-wingers like those at Heritage yesterday might think they’re taking a stand against radical Islam. But this isn’t just an ongoing failure to differentiate between “peaceful” Muslims and those “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” The crowd’s visceral reaction to the woman in the hijab, who happens to be a law student, is the essence of bigotry.
I also don’t doubt that the woman in the hijab knew her question, coupled with her appearance, would be provocative in that crowd. But what she provoked was raw and ugly. And this is what the incident at Heritage proved yet again: right-wingers can say whatever high-minded things they like – about freedom, patriotism, capitalism, rule of law, American values, whatever – but when pushed or when they believe they are talking among themselves, it is clear their ranks are infested with bigots.
Bigotry in its many forms is a fundamental part of the far right around the world. It should surprise no one that bigotry is a fundamental part of the far right in the United States too. What *should* surprise, and disappoint and disturb, many people is how close the “right” has become to the “far right” in the US.
For more about the event at Heritage, see “Heritage’s Benghazi Panel Gets Ugly—And Personal,” The Washington Post, June 17, 2014, p.A2, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-heritages-ugly-benghazi-panel/2014/06/16/b8bd423c-f5a3-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html