Republican candidates have vociferously condemned the attack on a Colorado abortion clinic, calling it an act of ‘extremism’, yet by the same token fail to extend this rationality to Muslim refugees
Last Friday, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. The violence left three dead and nine injured. For what purpose, you ask? According to the officers that made the arrest, suspect Robert Lewis Dear uttered something along the lines of a rally cry for ‘no more baby parts’.
This line about ‘baby parts’ harks back to rhetoric spewed by GOP presidential candidates such as Carly Fiorina, who claim that Planned Parenthood harvests and sells foetal tissue from aborted foetuses. Though research on foetal tissue is perfectly legal in the U.S., Planned Parenthood declared in October that they would no longer accept money to cover the cost of foetal tissue donations for research, in an effort to appease those crying moral outrage. Despite this statement, staunch anti-abortionists such as Fiorina continued their attacks on Planned Parenthood, using the same ‘baby parts’ rhetoric. It is worth mentioning that Planned Parenthood provides a bevy of health care services besides abortions, such as cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and prenatal services. Yet Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood entirely, focusing on the one service they don’t personally agree with.
While their track record on women’s reproductive rights has not improved, GOP candidates at least had the decency to condemn these attacks. In an interview on Meet the Press, frontrunner Donald Trump referred to Dear as an ‘extremist’. Trump’s rival, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson echoed this sentiment on ABC’s ‘This Week‘:
‘Unfortunately, there’s a lot of extremism coming from all areas. It’s one of the biggest problems that I think is threatening to tear our country apart … We get into our separate corners and we hate each other, we want to destroy those with whom we disagree’.
It is rather ironic that Republican candidates should separate Dear’s actions as the ‘work of an extremist’, when the same nuance is not provided to Syrian refugees. In light of the November 13th attacks on Paris, conservatives have protested over accepting the promised 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. Though 132 refugees have resettled in the U.S. since the Paris attacks, 31 governors have publicly announced that they would not welcome refugees into their states; all but one of these governors are Republican.
Among the presidential candidates kicking up a fuss is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who suggested that the government ought to have refugees ‘prove they are Christian’ before accepting them into the country. In an interview with ABC news, Bush emphasised taking in Christian refugees over Muslim ones, believing that they pose no threat. He added: ‘There are no Christian terrorists in the Middle East, they’re persecuted’.
If it is easy for Republicans to distinguish Dear as an anomaly amongst pro-life activists, then why is there so much caution against admitting Muslim refugees? Statistics in both the United States and abroad dispel the myth that refugees bring crime with them. Germany, which has taken in more refugees than any other country in the European Union, reports that the influx of refugees has not necessarily contributed to a higher crime rate; in fact, German police reports obtained by a conservative newspaper state that the crime rate has remained stagnant. Meanwhile, the United States has welcomed approximately two million refugees since the 1980s, including thousands from the Middle East. The number of refugees involved in acts of terrorism: a whopping zero.
It seems that it has also not occurred to the GOP that just like Christian refugees, ISIS also persecutes Muslims, the vast majority of whom condemn their actions. By issuing statements decrying the Planned Parenthood shootings as a ‘tragedy’, it does not mean that Republicans can avoid examining the part their own misinformed rhetoric has played in shaping Dear’s agenda. To cry ‘extremism’ in order to protect their own stance, and then scapegoat an entire religion due to the actions of a few radicals while ignoring the daily condemnations issued by ordinary Muslims, is highly hypocritical. Dare I say it: such hypocrisy does not just fly in the face of American values of equal treatment under the law, but also contradicts supposedly Republican values of extending Christian compassion to those in need.