On Sunday, New York Times religion correspondent Liam Stack became the latest Times reporter to devalue what would have been a historic achievement by a minority group politician, due to the politician in question being a conservative: “Oz Could Be the First Muslim U.S. Senator, but Some Muslim Americans Are Ambivalent.”
In quite the twist, a Times reporter is suspicious of a political figure (Dr. Mehmet Oz, running for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania as a Republican) for not pushing or emphasizing their religious beliefs. This after years of the paper bashing the supposedly dangerous theocratic tendencies of the Christian Right.
In just a few days, Pennsylvania could elect Dr. Mehmet Oz to the Senate, which would make him the nation’s first Muslim senator.
With an eye on that history, Muslims in the state have invited him to events at mosques. They have waited for him to talk about how his life has been influenced by his faith, which he once told an interviewer hewed to the mystical Sufi Islam of the whirling dervishes. They have wondered if he would note the significance of a Muslim’s being elected to such a high national office.
But he has not done any of those things.
Dr. Oz’s personal and political identities make him an unlikely fit for the role of a history-making, barrier-breaking Muslim public figure.
(In other words, he’s a Republican.)
He identifies himself as a secular Muslim, raised his four children in his wife’s Christian faith and rarely discusses his religious beliefs in public. Unlike most American Muslims, he is a Republican. And some of his rare comments about Islam -- including a warning about Shariah law in the United States, which no group has ever proposed [?] -- have been viewed by fellow Muslims as Islamophobic signaling.
A familiar bogeyman rose in Stack’s Sunday piece.
Above all, though, the alienation many Muslims feel from Dr. Oz stems from his vocal backing from former President Donald J. Trump, who once said he would “strongly consider” closing mosques in the United States, told an interviewer that “I think Islam hates us” and, as president, banned travel to the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries.
In other words, the first Muslim senator might be a man who owes his political rise to a figure who spread Islamophobia more widely than any other recent American leader.
Stack used Oz’s lack of firebrand religiosity to fault the Republican Party en masse and Trump especially, while blatantly fawning over a controversial Muslim Democratic figure.
American Muslims have also been deeply alienated from the Republican Party since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which led to years of racial profiling and government surveillance, enabled by the Patriot Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, a Republican. That estrangement became profound during the Trump administration.
There has been no excitement in the community over Dr. Oz the way there was when Keith Ellison, a Democrat, became the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2007, she said. He visited mosques across the country, was sworn into office on the Quran and served as an eloquent spokesman for American Muslims, Ms. [Dalia] Mogahed said.
Ellison, now Attorney General of Minnesota, weathered sexual harassment controversies and accusations of links to the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Lewis Farrakhan, which Stack conveniently failed to mention.
Stack notoriously contorted an objective study about religion and educational attainment around the world, and warped it into a 2016 story summarized by this mocking headline: “Christians in U.S. Are Less Educated Than Religious Minorities, Report Says.”