The US midterm elections have seen a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric, a report commissioned by public advocacy Muslim Advocates said.
“We’ve seen anti-Muslim candidates running in every region,” Muslim Advocates director Scott Simpson said. “We’ve seen them running at every level of office, from the school and planning boards all the way to governor and [the US] Congress.” “We’ve seen it in liberal places and conservative places,” Simpson said.
“It has really taken root and become very widespread,” he said.
The report examined more than 80 campaigns across the US run by candidates who it said engaged in anti-Muslim campaign attacks over the past two years.
Conspiracy theories targeting Muslims have increasingly entered the political mainstream, the report said.
The majority of the candidates said to be openly targeting Muslims — 64 percent — are either elected or appointed officials or claim a presidential endorsement, according to the report.
More than one-third have claimed that Muslims are inherently violent or pose an imminent threat and have propagated the existence of a Muslim conspiracy to take over communities or infiltrate government, the report said.
Just under one-third of the candidates considered have called for Muslims to be denied basic rights or said that Islam is not a religion, it said.
A record number of Muslim Americans are seeking elected office, said Mohamed Gula, political director of Emgage, an organization focused on electing more Muslims to public office.
Gula said groups like Emgage believe the best way to counter anti-Muslim sentiment is to build a formidable presence in public office and as an electorate.
“Being able to rewrite and redefine what it means to be socially responsible and civically engaged within our communities is of huge importance,” Gula said. “We’ve seen a little over  Muslims run for office. That was once unheard of.”
However, “since the 2016 election, how easy it is for candidates to really use Islamophobic and hateful rhetoric as a part of their platform,” he said.
“Whether you go to a masjid [a central mosque] or are part of any institution within the Muslim community, you’re attached to the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
A congressional race in California saw US Representative Duncan Hunter run an ad suggesting that his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, was a “security risk working to infiltrate Congress.”
The television spot mentioned Campa-Najjar’s Mexican-Palestinian heritage and claimed that he was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Campa-Najjar told reporters that the attack was “blatantly ignorant” and “unhinged from reality.”
The ad was denounced by a bipartisan group of national security veterans as “racist and bigoted.”
Elsewhere, a Republican political group has criticized candidate Abigail Spanberger for her work as a substitute teacher at a Saudi-funded Islamic school in northern Virginia.
“What is Abigail Spanberger hiding?” the narrator asks in a TV ad funded by the Congressional Leadership Fund. “Spanberger doesn’t want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed ‘Terror High,’ a terrorist breeding ground.”
Spanberger taught at the school from 2002 to 2003 while awaiting a security clearance to work at the CIA. She disclosed this and was granted two federal security clearances and dispatched to fight terrorism overseas.
However, of the 80 candidates the report called anti-Muslim, only 11 to 14 percent were elected or are safely projected to win next month.
“The rhetoric is not popular with American voters,” Simpson said.
“It is popular with a really isolated and very extreme part of the electorate that is very hostile to Muslims, that will parrot back the most out-of-touch conspiracy theories about American Muslims without even thinking twice,” he said.
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