Last week I reported the Pennington County GOP’s sponsorship of two anti-Islamic fearmongers touring South Dakota this week. This week, South Dakota Republican Party chairman Dan Lederman expresses the state GOP’s official support for this cancerous hate:
A Pennington County GOP spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but South Dakota Republican Party Chair Dan Lederman said the state party supports the Pennington County chapter’s sponsorship of the event.
“Unlike the Democrats who demand that the members of their party fall into lockstep, the Republican Party is a big tent party that allows our members to have different views,” Lederman told [that Sioux Falls paper]. “Many of our members believe that if we are able to concur or combat Islamic radicalism, we must understand the threat and that is exactly what we have helped with in Rapid City” [Dana Ferguson, “Muslim Group Asks GOP to Drop Ties to Controversial Speaker,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.06.15].
Lederman again plies his sham-inclusiveness. Sorry, Dan, but you don’t get to claim some tolerant superiority by promoting hate based on conspiracy theories and false generalizations about an entire group of Americans. Let’s look at the Rapid City Journal‘s summary of anti-Muslim speaker and adulterer John Guandolo’s claims:
At past speaking engagements, Guandolo has claimed that every major Islamic center and organization in the U.S. is part of a massive terrorist network, and that growth in Muslim communities is evidence of preparation for a jihad on U.S. soil.
“When they build a mosque they’re claiming territory, now all they have to do is occupy it,” Guandolo said at a conference in Colorado last August. “So they’re calling Muslims to occupy the land.”
“So when we look at the level of penetration that they’ve made from a military perspective,” he added, “this is an insurgency” [Mike Anderson, “Protests Planned at Event to Discuss ‘Threat of Global Islamic Movement’,” Rapid City Journal, 2017.06.15].
…and one prominent Muslim South Dakotan’s response:
The idea that all major Muslim organizations in the U.S. are part of an extremist conspiracy to destroy America is an example of “getting a little carried away,” said local developer Hani Shafai.
Shafai, who was born in Palestine and is a practicing Muslim, has lived in Rapid City for about 35 years.
“I love the people, I love the area,” Shafai said. “This is home. I’ll defend it against anybody, I don’t care if they’re Muslim, Jewish or Christians.”
“Every religion and every society has its bad apples and its radicals,” he added. “But there are a lot of good people in every society. There might be some radicals, but most Muslims, if not the majority of them, are just hardworking people who believe in God and believe in the books that God has sent” [Anderson, 2017.06.15].
It’s bad enough that Republican elected officials like Al Novstrup, Shantel Krebs and Marty Jackley have graced these anti-Muslim events with their presence. Now Lederman is shielding his party’s sponsorship of anti-Muslim rhetoric with a false reading of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean total moral relativism in which anything goes. We can tolerate difference—different religions, different races, different political views, different lifestyles—while rejecting harmful lies and bigotry, the way South Dakota Democrats do:
While reasonable people can disagree about immigration and refugee policy, conspiracy theories and bigotry targeting a minority population should have no place in our political debates. Republicans should denounce this type of hateful rhetoric, not embrace it. Since Mr. Lederman refused to take the lead in denouncing hate, I call Republican elected officials and candidates like John Thune, Mike Rounds, Kristi Noem, Marty Jackley, Shantel Krebs, and Dusty Johnson to show some important leadership and make it clear that this kind of hate does not belong in their party or our state [Ann Tornberg, South Dakota Democratic Party chair, press release, 2017.06.15].
Of course, if Tornberg and the press are mischaracterizing the true nature of the events the Republican Party is sponsoring, event organizers didn’t give the press a chance to correct that error:
KOTA Territory News was denied access into the event, but given a statement by ACT for America. It read in part:
“The Rapid City chapter of ACT for America has decided to keep the “Understanding the Threat” event private due to previous mis-characterization and inaccurate reporting by members of the media… Learning about Islamic extremism is relevant in this age of terrorism, and the media has used a specific and intentional agenda to depict our attendees as bigots.”
Family Heritage Alliance Director of Political Operations Ed Randazzo had agreed to an interview, but later decided against it [Brenna Ramsden, “An ‘Understanding’ the Muslim Threat Event Draws Protests,” KOTA TV, updated 2017.06.16].
Indivisible Rapid City posts the full No Press Allowed statement from ACT for America, as well as pictures of the nice local folks who turned out to protest the Republican-sponsored hate fest at the Rapid City Civic Center yesterday evening:
“Hate is easy—it takes courage to love,” reads the sign. If that’s true, then it’s too bad Dan Lederman and the South Dakota Republican Party can’t find that kind of courage.