Friday, December 22, 2006
BIGOTRY COMES in various guises -- some coded, some closeted, some colossally stupid. The bigotry displayed recently by Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., a Republican who represents a patch of south-central Virginia, falls squarely in the third category. Mr. Goode, evidently in a state of xenophobic delirium, went on a semi-public tirade against the looming peril and corrupting threat posed by Muslim immigration to the United States. "I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America," he wrote in a letter to constituents.
The inspiration for Mr. Goode's rant is Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who last month became the first Muslim elected to Congress. Mr. Ellison, who was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college, has decided to use the Koran during a ceremonial swearing-in, as is his constitutional right. This does not sit well with Mr. Goode, who, obnoxiously referring to his congressional colleague-to-be as "the Muslim Representative from Minnesota," warned ominously that current immigration policy would lead to an outbreak of elected Muslims in this country and unfettered use of the Koran.
Forget that Muslims represent a small fraction of immigrants to America. And leave aside the obvious point that Mr. Goode was evidently napping in class the day they taught the traditional American values of tolerance, diversity and religious freedom. This country's history is rife with instances of uncivil, hateful and violent behavior toward newcomers, be they Jewish, Irish, Italian or plenty of others whose ethnicities did not jibe with some pinched view of what it means to be American. Mr. Goode's dimwitted outburst of nativism is nothing new.
No, the real worry for the nation is that the rest of the world might take Mr. Goode seriously, interpreting his biased remarks about Muslims as proof that America really has embarked on a civilizational war against Islam. With 535 members, you'd think that Congress would welcome the presence of a single Muslim representative. Whether it can afford a lawmaker of Mr. Goode's caliber is another question.