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Democrats and Republicans must condemn growing anti-Indian smears

Author: Michael Rubin
Publication: Washingtonexaminer.com
Date: May 2, 2022
URL:      https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/restoring-america/patriotism-unity/democrats-and-republicans-must-condemn-growing-anti-indian-smears

When John F. Kennedy ran for president, many of his competitors sought to challenge him on the merits of his ideas. A few, however, questioned whether a Catholic could ever truly be loyal to America.

Kennedy addressed the matter directly in a 1960 speech: "Are we going to admit to the world that a Jew can be elected mayor of Dublin, a Protestant can be chosen foreign minister of France, a Muslim can serve in the Israeli Parliament — but a Catholic cannot be president of the United States?"

Jews, too, sometimes face charges of dual loyalty. In the run-up to the Iraq War, conspiracies spread that a desire to protect Israel rather than the U.S. motivated Jews in the Bush administration to advocate war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Even the late Secretary of State Colin Powell often used such tactics to win interagency battles. What Powell did not realize was that long-term erosion in civil society offset any short-term gains his team enjoyed. And such tactics were not entirely homegrown. More than a decade before widespread awareness of Russian election interference, Saudi-funded consultancies and organizations catalyzed the conspiracy theories as they sought to fan opposition, for their own sectarian reasons, to any policy that might empower Shi’ites.

Today, Hindus have become the new Catholics and Jews. Across the political spectrum, Indian American candidates face slander that they harbor extremist links rooted in dual loyalty.

Anti-India gadfly Pieter Friedrich, who accuses India's founding father Mahatma Gandhi of everything from incest to " white supremacy " to promoting Adolf Hitler , has accused the likes of former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D - Ill.), congressional candidate Rishi Kumar, Department of Homeland Security adviser Sonal Shah, and a host of local candidates of having links to Indian intelligence, political parties, or extremists.

Friedrich sets up websites smearing Indian American politicians. While dirty tricks are not infrequent in politics, what sets Friedrich’s campaign apart is that ethnicity and religion rather than political position are the common link. He does not differentiate, for example, between Padma Kuppa, a Democrat and the first Indian immigrant and Hindu to hold a seat in the Michigan Legislature, and Niraj Antani, a conservative Ohio Republican who was the youngest Hindu to be elected to a state senate. When the target is a staffer rather than an elected official, Friedrich sets up petitions demanding their firing. This was the case, for example, with Shah or former Ambassador Atul Keshap .

The charges of fascism and links to extremists are tenuous, based not on substance but instead on multiple degrees of separation and insinuation. Two figures present at a common event where hundreds of others were also present? To anti-Hindu bigots, that demonstrates definitive proof of intricate links and cooperation. By the same logic, Joe Biden embraces spousal abuse if a single member of the Democratic National Convention beat his wife.

In the heat of a campaign, some local party officials, including those of South Asian backgrounds, turn a blind eye to the slander if it gives their preferred candidate a leg up. This is a mistake and only legitimizes bigotry as a political weapon.

It may also open the door for greater foreign interference. Friedrich is a nodal point for growing support for Sikh separatism in India, which appears to have its genesis in Pakistan. He has no clear and transparent source of income that explains the resources he brings to his campaigns against Indian American politicians.

Despite the demonization with which some Democratic and Republican activists approach the other side, the cores of both parties, and even the most progressive and conservative activists, draw a line at religious bigotry. Politicians should not throw Hindus under the bus to avoid manufactured controversy. It is time Republicans and Democrats jointly condemn the slander. And they should not be alone. Catholics and Jews, who have, at times, also experienced cheap bigotry in political discourse, should stand behind them to ensure that the cost of such tactics is felt not by their targets but by their perpetrators.

 

-Michael Rubin (@mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
 
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