Muddassar Ahmed writes: the type of aggressive, populist campaign that has so far been successful for Donald Trump in the United States will not necessarily be a blueprint for success elsewhere. Although many on the right in Britain apparently believed that capitalizing on anti-Muslim sentiment is not just acceptable, but a sure ticket to victory, the strategy was found wanting. In short, there is a limit to the ability of bigotry to capture elections.
And it is not just Britain that has demonstrated that resorting to anti-Muslim language can backfire. Take the example of former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Last year, he resorted to crude anti-Muslim language as he sought re-election. In contrast, Harper’s opponent, Justin Trudeau, went out of his way to embrace Muslims (and other minorities). Harper didn’t just lose — he was trounced.
Many non-Muslim Canadians were repelled by seeing this faith-based bigotry in their secular politics. Just as importantly, the Muslim-bashing had another effect that Harper apparently did not seem to see coming — it prompted Canadian Muslims to vote in record numbers. You can bet that these new voters will continue and extend their political involvement, meaning that in a well deserved bit of irony, Harper’s Islamophobic campaign may have created a Canadian Muslim political consciousness where none existed before.
With this in mind, it is likely for good reason that in the United Kingdom, the Conservative group leader of the Greater London assembly, Andrew Boff, criticized Goldsmith’s divisive campaign for damaging his party’s relations with the Muslim community, something that could further hurt it down the road.
In fact, the same thing could happen in America. After all, not only is Donald Trump now a widely detested politician (polls suggest that more Americans disapprove of him than are worried about Muslims), but American Muslims are becoming more politically engaged. And although the American Muslim population is relatively small, it may hold the key to swing states like Virginia, Florida and Ohio. [Continue reading…]