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Uniting Us As Americans

August 07, 2012 3:44 pm ET
Because the Sikh temple gunman's neo-Nazi background strongly suggests that he deliberately targeted American Sikhs -- who are frequently mistaken to be American Muslims -- the massacre is renewing a national conversation about religion in America in the wake of 9/11 and our leaders' role in uniting us as Americans -- or dividing us for political gain. Here's how to talk about both.
Because the Sikh temple gunman's neo-Nazi background strongly suggests that he deliberately targeted American Sikhs -- who are frequently mistaken to be American Muslims -- the massacre is renewing a national conversation about religion in America in the wake of 9/11 and our leaders' role in uniting us as Americans -- or dividing us for political gain. Here's how to talk about both.

CORE MESSAGE

We're all Americans regardless of where we pray.

Connect: This is America. No one should have to live in fear for their lives just because of their faith.

Define: We need leaders who know that we're all Americans regardless of where we pray and that we're stronger as a country when we stick together.

Affirm: President Obama calls American Sikhs part of the American family and leaders like Sen. John McCain condemn fellow Republicans for smearing American Muslims for no reason other than their faith.

Contrast: Other politicians would rather keep singling out innocent Americans based on religion to divide us against each other -- just to win political points.

Lead: We need leaders who know we're stronger united -- not politicians who undermine the fundamental freedom we all have in America to practice our faiths as we choose.


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CASE STUDY


When asked about Congressional Republicans'
false allegations of Islamic extremism against Huma Abedin, an aide to America's top diplomat, just because of her faith, here's how Mitt Romney responded --

EXCUSE: "I'm not going to tell other people what things to talk about."
RESPONSE:

  • Tea Party politicians like Michelle Bachmann making these false accusations are singling out Abedin because of her faith. It's guilt by association just because of how and where she prays.
  • Even Republican leaders like John McCain and John Boehner have condemned this "unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman."
  • But Romney cares more about not offending the worst elements of his political base than uniting Americans and standing up for the freedom we all have to practice our religion as we choose.

ATTACKS AND RESPONSES


ATTACK: "Muslims were responsible for the 9/11 attacks -- that's why Islamophobia exists."
RESPONSE:

  • American Muslims are our neighbors, doctors, firefighters, and teachers -- and they include members of our military who've died defending our freedom and the NYC firefighters who risked their lives on 9/11 pulling their fellow Americans from smoke-filled stairwells.
  • Our top military commanders like Gen. Petraeus and law enforcement agree -- if we see American Muslims as our enemies, we feed right into the terrorists' propaganda.
  • Instead, we should be targeting terrorists based on evidence, not single out an entire group based on their religion. That's more effective at keeping us safe than putting the American Muslim community under surveillance.
  • Using religion to drive a wedge between people is an abuse of religion and threatens what makes our country great.

CONCERN: "The Muslim faith is not respectful of the rights of women."  
RESPONSE:

  • In America, Muslim women have the same freedoms as any other woman in America. For example, they choose whether or not to wear a headscarf as a symbol of religious devotion.
  • It's great that in America, everyone has the right to practice their religion as they choose.

FALSEHOOD: "Sharia law is creeping into our country's legal system and we need to stop it."
RESPONSE:

  • Politicians talking about Sharia law being used in American courts are trying to scare people and divide Americans against each other in order to win votes. But the American people aren't that easily fooled -- most Americans aren't afraid of this because they know it will never happen.
  • We need leaders who protect us from violent extremists -- not politicians who use religion to drive a wedge between us.

ATTACK: "Muslims are sympathetic to radical Islam."
RESPONSE:

  • Actually, American Muslim leaders are among the most strongly outspoken against violent extremism.
  • Dozens of terrorist attacks have been prevented in the U.S. since 9/11 because American Muslims spoke up to law enforcement when they've seen suspicious behavior -- just like any American would.
  • And let's not forget that it was an American Muslim street vendor who raised the alarm and helped stop the Times Square bomber in 2010.
  • American Muslims are our neighbors, doctors, firefighters, and teachers -- and they include members of our military who've died defending our freedom. We shouldn't allow politicians to use religion to drive a wedge between us.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW 


We develop messaging by aggregating, analyzing and distilling polling, tested messaging, and expert recommendations, and monitoring the media to identify what is and isn't working. See here for some of the experts and organizations we draw on.


 


Posted in - Foreign Policy - Religion - National Security

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