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Islamophobia is real.

Former State Sen. John Andrews delivered troubling remarks during his opening address at the Western Conservative Summit in July. Ironically, in a talk entitled “Defending Religious Freedom and America’s First Amendment,” Andrews called Islam “the enemy.”

He opened by making a strong case for religious liberty, but then his remarks became problematic — and confused. In an attempt to criticize radical Islam, Andrews threw all of Islam under the banners of tyranny and totalitarianism. As I continued reading about a “clash of civilizations” I had to wonder how many Muslims Andrews knows? Or how many Muslim clergy has he spoken with? Why has he decided to project the Muslim Brotherhood — rightly perceived by many Muslims as an extremist group — as the mouthpiece for mainstream Islam?

Andrews’ comments are short-sighted. He is alienating the exact group of people he could be reaching out to: people of faith.

In Europe, Muslims and Jews often work together to protect their communities from encroaching governments that desire to limit their religious practice. Circumcision, religious education and ritual slaughter are three areas in particular where Muslims and Jews have found common ground.

I’ve never understood why conservatives in the US aren’t reaching out to Muslims. Most Muslim immigrants to the US are hard-working, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps types. Isn’t that what conservatives want to promote? Many Muslims are traditionalists, valuing the nuclear family, education and economic success, three core values shared by conservatives.

Andrews accuses Muslims of waging “perpetual war.” Of “absolutism.” Of theological supremacy. All I could think was: Have you heard of the Crusades? The pogroms? The Inquisition?

He goes after Islamic doctrine, but tell me of a religion whose doctrine, absent any context or interpretation, isn’t somewhat problematic?

If such a speech were made about Jews we would call it anti-Semitic.

Former State Sen. John Andrews is a thoughtful man, and one who deeply values his faith and freedom to practice it.

This is why I say Islamophobia is real. Despite Andrews’ attempt to couch his arguments in logic and evidence, what came through to this reader was an irrational fear of the other.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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