Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Walker leaves out Muslims when discussing religious freedom

Governor blames “typical” media response for pointing out the omission, doesn’t correct himself

During an event in Milwaukee commemorating the start of Hanukkah, Gov. Scott Walker expressed his support for freedom of religious belief, listing off a number of faiths as examples of religious plurality celebrated in the United States.
...whether someone is Jewish, or Christian, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or whatever it might be, that particularly here in America, we recognize that [religious freedom is] one of the great tenets.
Notably absent from the list of faiths Walker listed was Islam. When a reporter asked Walker about that, he got upset over the question, and blasted the media for asking what really is a simple request.
“Pointing that out is typical of the media,” said Walker. “Somebody asked me the other day, what did I find out about the media? It's like, what did I leave out? I just rattled off a bunch [of faiths]. You could mention three or four other religions. I didn't specifically single one or the other out.”
It’s likely that Walker meant what he said -- it would be impractical for the governor to list out every single religious belief in making his point.

But it’s also an inquiry that didn’t require a long-winded response like what he gave, and it seems that Walker is trying to avoid answering it rather than provide clarity on the issue.

It’s not a silly question to ask, either. In light of Republican candidates for president making blatant attacks against Islam in recent months (including Walker, who suggested there were only a “handful of reasonable, moderate followers of Islam” back in August), it’s important for Republicans to signal that these rights apply to Muslims as well.

Indeed, with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump suggesting a ban on all Muslims from entering the country (including those who are U.S. citizens traveling abroad), now more than ever it is necessary for Republicans to distinguish themselves from this type of nonsense.

Walker’s rant against the media is ignoring another important facet: there are many more Muslims in America than Hindus or Buddhists. According to Census figures, Muslims outnumber Buddhists by about 13 percent. And there are 130 percent more Muslims than Hindus in the nation as well.

To list those faiths over adherents of Islam is a questionable move, and one that was rightfully asked about by a reporter. Walker’s snippy answer speaks volumes about how he really feels, and does a lot more damage than a simple response of “Yes, Muslims have the same rights, too” would have done.

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