CAIRO - US politicians' use of Islam as an election issue to polarize voters on certain issues is widely criticized as ramping up anti-Muslim sentiments by using religion as a political scapegoat.
This is a culture in which we have politicized everything, Sherman Jackson, a professor of religion and American studies and ethnicity King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture, said, the Daily Trojan reported
Jackson was speaking at a panel sponsored by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics titled, Muslims in America: Identity, Politics and Engagement.
During the panel, he warned that turning the Islamic culture into a political issue has ramped up anti-Muslim sentiments in the US.
The problem is that Islam becomes an explanation for everything â¦ no matter what Muslims do, their actions will be attributed back to the Quran, Jackson said.
Islam and Islam alone comes to be identified as the animator of all Muslim action.
In the elections season, the Republican Party has also been dismissive to Muslim voters over the anti-Islam campaigns played by its candidates to win votes.
Newt Gingrich, former House speaker, has described Islamic Shari`ah as a mortal threat to the United States.
Republican aspirant Rick Santorum had also described Islamic Shari`ah as "an existential threat" to America.
Former candidate Herman Cain had also said that he would not appoint a Muslim in his administration.
Cain, who withdrew from the race for the White House, later modified his position by calling for an unconstitutional "loyalty" oath for Muslim appointees.
Recently, a Republican Missouri lawmaker described Islam as a disease like polio while another Alaska Rep. branded Muslims as occupiers' of American neighborhoods.
This rhetoric used by politicians was inciting fears of the Muslim minority, Christian Patterson, vice president of the Political Science Undergraduate Association, said.
Whether you agree or disagree with the so-called 9/11 mosque,' the way politicians dealt with it was to use it to motivate people to sprout up with anti-Muslim sentiment and to make it an issue, Patterson said.
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
Admitting that Islam was being scapegoated by US politicians, the panel gave hope to starting a dialogue to educate Americans about the true nature of Islam.
We need to have conversations about what are the unique contributions of Muslim Americans, how are we different and what are we bringing to the table, said panelist Najeeba Syeed-Miller, assistant professor of interreligious education at the Claremont School of Theology.
The event was planned in part to broaden the conversation about the Muslim community in America.
The primary hope is that people understand that Muslims are one of the most diverse groups in America, said Director of Muslim Student Life Ali Mir.
They are diverse; they are human beings; they are dynamic and they don't all practice religion in the same way.
Attendants of the event said that the panel realized its goals for many audiences.
I'd never thought about the fact that Islam was brought here by slaves because society always associates it with Arabs and that is not the whole truth, Catherine Brackett, a freshman majoring in political science.
Brackett said she understood Muslim culture better after hearing the panelists' discussion said.
It enlightened me in that way.
Muslim attendants also said the discussion was insightful.
To be part of a conversation so diverse as this was really great, said James Khabushani, a junior majoring in business administration.
It brought me a different perspective on what my ethnicity means.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net