Syed Taj, Muslim candidate for Congress, subjected to outrageous racist attacks

    Last week, when I noticed that the American Medical Association (AMA) had started taking out television ads in support of our friend Syed Taj, I knew that racist attacks from the right were inevitable. The AMA ads signaled to me that the race was close (as the AMA doesn’t invest in races that aren’t winnable), and I knew that it was just a matter of time before someone on the right would play the race card in hopes of reversing his momentum. Well, that time has come, and the ads have started.

    Here, before we get to the ad, though, is a bit of background on the race… Until recently Michigan’s 11th district was represented by Thaddeus McCotter, and it was thought to be unwinnable by Taj, who not only happens to be a Democrat, but a foreign-born Democrat, and a practicing Muslim. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, when the parameters of this district were redrawn by Republicans a few years ago, they thought that they’d created a safe seat in perpetuity for McCotter and his spawn. They’d neglected to realize, however, that, while conservative, a huge percentage of the population in this redrawn district is Asian. And they’d also not counted on their candidate, Thaddeus McCotter, being forced from office just weeks before the primary due to allegations of election fraud, leaving only an extremist Tea Party crackpot by the name of Kerry Bentivolio, who had recently been forced from his teaching position at Fowlerville High School due to his erratic and confrontational behavior with students, to represent their party in the general election. The Republicans weren’t thrilled with their candidate, but they thought that the race was in the bag, given the number of registered Republicans in the district, and they were willing to stand by him for the time being. (Their plan, according to my sources, was to get Bentivolio into office, have him serve his term, and then run a party insider against him in the next primary.) Something unexpected happened, though. Taj started to get traction in both the Asian community, and with educated professionals in the district, who respected his accomplishments as Chief of Medicine at Oakwood Hospital, and as an effective member of the Canton Board of Trustees. People in this conservative district, it would seem, were willing to consider him based upon his credentials, regardless of his party affiliation, his religion, or his race. And, the momentum seems to be on his side, as demonstrated by the fact that groups like the AMA are now seeing this race as winnable.

    This, of course, is all good news, but it comes at a price. Now that Taj is posing a serious threat, the Islamophobic rhetoric is ratcheting up. The following ad, entitled “What do we really know about Syed Taj?” just began running in the district.

    My favorite part:

    ANNOUNCER: We know Syed Taj wants to advance Muslim power in America. Syed Taj: too extreme for Michigan. Too extreme for America.

    The following is from Think Progress:

    In a stunning appeal to Islamaphobia, a group linked to former Swiftboater and birther conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi has launched a smear attack ad on a Muslim-American Congressional candidate. The spot warns that Dr. Syed Taj, the Democratic nominee in Michigan’s 11th Congressional district, wants to “advance Muslim power in America.”

    Freedom’s Defense Fund, a right-wing PAC that has spent at least $150,000 on ads in support of Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R) despite his comments that victims of “legitimate rape” are unlikely to become pregnant, reported spending at least $30,000 on ads against Taj and for his opponent Republican Kerry Bentivolio, a Tea Party activist and Santa Clause impersonator

    Taj’s campaign responded to the racist attack earlier today, issuing the following statement.

    This past Friday, a super-PAC ironically named Freedom’s Defense Fund began airing a despicable and dishonest ad attacking Dr. Taj. The ad is a blatant attempt at fear mongering based on Dr. Taj’s ethnicity and personal religious beliefs. Freedom’s Defense Fund is hoping by painting Dr. Taj as a scary Muslim they can distract voters’ attention from their candidate’s extremism and sordid past.

    These tactics are hardly new to the Freedom’s Defense Fund. This super-PAC is the spawn of Jerome Corsi and is funded by secretive right-wing donors. Mr. Corsi’s resume is a highlight reel of fringe right-wing extremism. From the “Swift boating” of John Kerry to the laughably ridiculous “Birther” conspiracies there is one constant – Jerome Corsi. So, there is little wonder that his group would be behind these racially-tinged desperate attacks against Dr. Taj.

    This election cycle, Freedom’s Defense Fund has spent heavily on Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin in Missouri and the failed Presidential campaign of Rick Santorum. The super-PAC was also one of Kerry Bentivolio’s supporters in his GOP primary against write-in candidate Nancy Cassis. Contrasting Freedom’s Defense Fund’s list of supported candidates with Dr. Taj’s list of supporters paints a clear picture of who are the real extremists.

    Not surprisingly, in addition to being a clear attempt at Islamophobic fear mongering, the ad is also laced with gross distortions:

    1. The ad claims Dr. Taj relies on funding from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Dr. Taj’s FEC filing is publicly available; the Taj Campaign has not received any funding from the DSA. A physician colleague, who also happens to be on the DSA board, hosted a fundraiser in his home at which individuals made donations to Dr. Taj’s campaign.

    2. The ad claims that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a front group for Hammas. This is once again more anti-Muslim fringe rhetoric found only on the right-wing blogosphere. Does any rational person actually think the Bush Justice Department would not have prosecuted CAIR had there been even a shred of actual evidence to these claims? The only word in this segment of the ad that is important is “un-indicted.” Dr. Taj does not apologize for having the support of Muslims, nor does he apologize for having the support of Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, or Baptists.

    3. The ad claims Dr. Taj wants to advance Muslim power in America. This is the ad’s biggest stretch as it takes a quote from the Muslim Observer newspaper about forming a Muslim Caucus with Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson completely out of context. The entire article can be found here.

    Islamophobia and half-truths – can we expect much more from the likes of James Corsi? The people of the 11th District deserve better. It’s too bad Freedom’s Defense Fund and their candidate Kerry Bentivolio seem to think otherwise.

    Upon learning of the ad, Dr. Taj offered the following statement:

    “I wish I could say I was surprised by these commercials. But I knew that at some point my personal religious beliefs would be made an issue by my opponent or his right-wing friends. My religion is not an issue, no more than Mr. Bentivolio’s religion is an issue. My beliefs are my beliefs, and while they provide me with inner strength and commitment, they are part of my private life – not public life. Part of what drew me to this country was the ability for everyone to freely practice their religion and respect the rights of others to do the same. I remain steadfastly committed to this ideal and I am disappointed that others would seek to score political points simply because I attend a mosque. The people of the 11th District should know that no matter my personal beliefs I will serve all of them in Congress and fight for everyone to enjoy the American Dream.”

    I know it’s not a ton of money, but, if anyone out there is willing to contribute a few dollars to Taj’s campaign, I’d be happy to match the first $100. This is an incredibly important race for me, not only because I genuinely like Taj, and feel as though he would do an incredible job for us in Washington, but because I think we need to start fighting back aggressively against the racist fear mongers like Jerome Corsi, who feel as though this kind of behavior is acceptable. We need to demonstrate to him, and others like him, that the American people aren’t stupid, racist, or fearful of their moderate Muslim neighbors, and that we’re willing to outspend him at every turn… Please join me in sending that message today.

    Goal Thermometer

    [note: My interview with Dr. Taj, if you haven't yet seen it, can be found here.]

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      26 Comments

      1. Posted October 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

        OK, I contributed the first $20. Anyone else want to join me and take me up on my offer to match?

      2. Posted October 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        I posted this five minutes ago, and there still aren’t any donations. What’s wrong with you people?

      3. Posted October 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        That’s better…. Anyone else want to help Taj kick some racist ass?

      4. Mike G!
        Posted October 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        I’m in, but mostly because I found the spot so amusing.

      5. Posted October 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        Amusing? How so?

        And that first $20 was mine, so there’s still room if you want to participate in the match. by my count, I’ve still got $30 to invest.

      6. Posted October 29, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        And, when I’m done matching, someone else could always offer a match. Maybe we could raise $1000 for Taj, like we did for Ozone House when they were attacked by small-minded homophobes not too long ago.

      7. Posted October 30, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        Did EOS create that ad?

      8. Chris
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        Bentivolio’s campaign had nothing to do with that ad, so holding that against Bentivolio is rather unfair, don’t you think?

        So, getting back to the candidates’ themselves…

        Mr. Bentvolio is a fine man and a patriotic American. Michigan, and all of America, needs someone like him who will abide by his oath of office to the Constitution and put America and Americans first for a change.

        It’s true that he hasn’t been busy feeding at the government trough and came from the same walk of life as many of us. To me, that is a good thing. I don’t want someone practiced at being bought off by lobbyists, or who has experience draining my bank account to pay for their pet projects. I want someone who knows he represents We the People and knows how to balance a checkbook. It should come in handy in D.C., because most of them need basic lessons in both of these things.

        As far as the author’s other contentions…
        Unfortunately, the AMA isn’t what it once was and that is probably why so few doctors belong to it these days. http://www.examiner.com/article/only-15-20-of-doctors-belong-to-the-ama

        The AMA supports ObamaCare, which is why they like Taj. http://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypipes/2011/09/26/doctor-and-ama-split-over-contentious-issue-of-obamacare/

        As far as the slur about Bentivolio’s teaching skills, geez, you’d think that his students wouldn’t be giving him glowing remarks, wouldn’t you, but they did. http://www.ratemyteachers.com/kerry-bentivolio/1341450-t/1

      9. Michael
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        Doesn’t it bother anyone that Taj has taken money from Socialists and Cair. I looked up the interview in the mislim voice and Taj specifically says “we will have more power” in his comments regarding starting a Muslim caucus. Is that the goal of getting in to Congress– to increase power? Should it not be to serve the people of America. And why do people keep attacking Bentivolio as a Santa impersonator? Who does this upset?– the real santa??? Seems like all of you on the left will make up arguments against a conservative and allow any behavior from liberals.

      10. Mr. X
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        We cannot allow these people to get a foothold in the state of Michigan. Daniel Johnston, the white power candidate in this race, has said that he intends to run more candidates in the future beneath the banner of his newly reimagined Natural Law Party. These people are like cockroaches and they see potential in Michigan. We need to show them, in resounding fashion, that they’re not wanted here, and that we will do whatever is necessary to fight them off .

      11. Posted October 30, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        VOTE FOR TAJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s32nJuRyebE

      12. anon
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        just gave 25. wish it could be more.

      13. Oliva
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Thanks, as always, Mark.

      14. Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Michael,

        Personally, being a socialist myself, I see nothing wrong with taking money from Socialists. Perhaps you have a problem with me giving money to Taj or any of the other candidates I’ve donated to in this election cycle. Feel free to speak up.

        As for CAIR, so what? That’s old hat, man.

        Worse yet, is there anything wrong at all with Muslim-Americans seeking political representation in Congress? As long as they have that blue passport, they are entitled to be represented.

        Reading your post, I get the feeling that people who follow Islam scare you. Personally, I think all of the Abrahamic religions are bunk, but I recognize that most people aren’t fundamentalists and everyone has a right to be represented. This is particularly salient for groups that face unnecessary levels of bigotry.

        Taj has stated that he values the separation of church and state, which I very much respect. He is for the expansion of public health care, which I also support. Bentvolio does not support these things.

      15. Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Chris,

        I am a very bad teacher, but have also gotten good ratings on RateMyProfessors.

        The facts speak for themselves. Bentvolio was, in fact reprimanded by his school multiple times for behaving unprofessionally.

        Mark had a link up to the documents from the school where he was employed, where did it go?

      16. Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Oh wait, here it is

        http://www.freep.com/article/20120822/NEWS15/120822001/Graphic-How-Bentivolio-s-classroom-behavior-reprimanded

      17. Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        But you know what, this election isn’t about Kerry.

        This election is about Taj, who’s a great candidate, in my opinion.

      18. John Galt
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        And who is to say that the color of that young female student’s pubic hair wasn’t pertinent to the conversation? Just because he asks a child about her pubic hair doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a bad teacher. We need the context. Unfortunately we can’t get that from the liberal media.

      19. Zig@dicoat.com
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        I have met and listen to the Dr. Very difficult to understand. My impression of him was just another 1% with more money than he knows what to do with. He has very little experience and will beuseless in Congress. His opponent is not much better. Have not had any contact with him. The Free Press had it right, Syed is the lesser of two evils. Kindest REgards Zulu2

      20. Posted October 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        Taj served on the Canton city council. That doesn’t count?

      21. Posted October 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        And he ran a huge medical center. Apparently that’s equivalent to being a failed Santa impersonator.

      22. Tom
        Posted October 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Only $285? I live in FL and donated 15 bucks. Lets make Mark spend all that headless unicorn riches.

      23. Posted October 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Kerry Bentivolio’s, started the religious smears talking points which the ad reinforces, so when they claim it is an independent PAC doing their own smear campaign, you know they are not telling the entire truth. Kerry repeated the same lies during a radio interview, so much for the outraged denial.
        Kerry has no ideas to debate Dr Taj one on one so he has to stoop to religious smears. The geniuses in his campaign should have known what you cannot accuse someone of being a radical Muslim and a radical Socialist at the same time.
        Kerry runs from the voters that want to ask him about his extreme positions and his abusive teaching record and bankruptcy like a scared little girl. See you tube video below.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSyEaj_NDn0&feature=channel&list=UL

        See below for more information on Kerry or go to http://krazykerry.com/ for all you want to know about him.

        Detroit News
        Carl Paulus, political director of Bentivolio’s campaign, criticized the Democrats for saying a veteran shouldn’t be in Congress.
        “It shows how out of the mainstream the Michigan Democratic Party has become that they would say that a 27-year veteran who served in Vietnam and Iraq is unqualified to serve in Congress while they support a candidate who’s being funded by the largest socialist organization in the United States and a group that has been linked to Hamas by the FBI,” Paulus said.

        From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20121023/POLITICS01/210230446#ixzz2ApN6WigF

        Oakland Press- former student of Kerry B. say ………

        http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2012/08/23/news/local_news/doc50368f0a1bf4d008492280.txt?viewmode=fullstory

        One former student, a 2006 graduate and Rochester resident, said she got “creepy vibes” from him. She wished to remain anonymous because she said she is intimidated by him and has run into him since graduation. She said she was “disgusted” when she learned he was running for Congress.

        “I had him for a history class my sophomore year I believe, and he used to ask me and another female student to come over to his house and play with his reindeer all the time and said he would pay us to feed them and dress up as elves with them at Christmas time,” she said. “ I know other women, even from different grades, have similar stories about him too from their time with him as a teacher at NDP.”

        Independence Township resident Camy Sylvestre, another 2006 graduate, confirmed the anonymous student’s response — saying she has recently talked to several of her former classmates who had similar opinions.

      24. Posted October 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        Kerry didn’t just fail, apparently he really thought he was Santa Claus.

      25. Posted October 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        Kerry B. on radio show with the same comments as the smear ad

        see link

        http://www.wjrpodcasts.com/podcasts/frankbeckmann/10262012-Bentivolio.mp3

      26. Mark
        Posted November 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        We have so many crooked lawyers in the Senat, Congress where We The People do not have any representation. I need now Doctor in US Senat or Congress?
        Questions Doctor Taj:
        why gave up helping People with the health issue and practice the medicine?
        You are not good anymore and ready become crooked “doctor”? more $$$ in politics?
        Mark

      2 Trackbacks

      1. [...] aren’t looking great for Taj, a practicing Muslim, who is presently being hit by a barrage of racist, fear-mongering ads funded by the same wealthy conservative responsible for the despicable swiftboating of John Kerry [...]

      2. By How did Kerry Bentivolio get Elected to Congress? on November 21, 2012 at 10:41 am

        [...] had been trending slightly Democractic.  Well, after the 2010 censuse, it was redrawn to be safe again forever for Thaddeus.  The Democrats put up a token candidate that most knew didn’t stand a chance.  All that [...]

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