NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As information tales emerged from New Delhi on Thursday night, all providing proof of an appalling anti-Muslim pogrom there, 50 or so American conservatives, many in crimson “Make America Nice Once more” hats, filed right into a windowless lodge convention room in suburban Maryland to look at a panel dialogue referred to as “With out Spiritual Freedom, What’s Left?”
The panel was a part of the Conservative Political Motion Convention (CPAC), the premier annual gathering of the American proper, the place Republican senators and representatives mingled with pundits, activists and journalists inside a sprawling conference middle exterior Washington, D.C.
The pressing plight of India’s Muslims earned solely 15 seconds of debate through the hourlong CPAC panel on non secular freedom. The transient point out got here when Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador at massive for worldwide non secular freedom, described President Donald Trump’s go to two days earlier to India to satisfy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“He had an important journey there,” Brownback mentioned of the president. “Thirty-six hours, and in a non-public assembly with Modi he’s going, ‘Look, you gotta deal with the non secular freedom enterprise. You bought a persecution going down of a variety of your inhabitants right here.’”
However what Brownback didn’t point out to the CPAC viewers was that Trump had publicly praised Modi as a champion of “non secular freedom” throughout a press convention in New Delhi, regardless of the Indian prime minister being the chief of a blood-and-soil Hindu nationalist motion that seeks to expel Muslims from India. The ambassador didn’t point out that, throughout Trump’s go to, a minimum of 42 individuals have been killed as Hindu nationalist mobs roamed the town’s streets.
As a substitute, he moved on to different subjects. After the panel concluded, as Brownback walked by way of the halls of the Gaylord Nationwide Convention and Conference Middle — previous teams of college-aged Republicans in outsized fits towards “Broadcast Row,” the place far-right information shops like Breitbart and the Epoch Occasions had cubicles — a member of his employees prevented HuffPost from questioning him about Trump’s actions in New Delhi.
At this 12 months’s CPAC, organized by the American Conservative Union, attendees in every single place expressed a deep loyalty to Trump and refused to entertain criticisms about his response to what’s taking place in India — a response the Council on American-Islamic Relations mentioned has solely “added gasoline to the fireplace” there.
Extra importantly, although, CPAC 2020 served as one more demonstration of the Islamophobia that animates fashionable American conservatism and that makes it an lively companion within the tide of anti-Muslim violence and repression sweeping the globe, together with in Modi’s India.
The person all of the CPAC attendees have been right here to have fun, in spite of everything, as soon as acknowledged, “I feel Islam hates us.”
Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a frequent Fox Information visitor and a spokesman for the conservative Nationwide Convention on Jewish Affairs, stepped out of the principle ballroom at CPAC on Saturday and browsed the cubicles within the hallway. He’d traveled to the convention from Canton, Ohio, he mentioned, to listen to the president’s speech and to be amongst like-minded individuals.
He informed HuffPost that he wasn’t accustomed to the violence in New Delhi, however that regardless, “I wouldn’t criticize the president. I’ve a variety of religion in what he says.”
“There are wars there, I do know, between the Hindu inhabitants and the Muslim inhabitants,” Spero mentioned. “They’ve had these wars for a very long time. I don’t suppose any of this stuff are one-sided.”
HuffPost provided Spero some particulars in regards to the present state of affairs: Since August, Modi’s authorities has carried out a sequence of Hindu-first citizenship legal guidelines that would render lots of India’s 200 million Muslims stateless. The federal government has additionally began to assemble large detention camps for these affected by the legislation.
Students of fascism say these developments mirror 1930s Germany, and in reality, Hindu nationalists and members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Social gathering have lengthy drawn inspiration from Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Social gathering. Modi himself is a member of a BJP-affiliated paramilitary group modeled explicitly after the Nazis.
Spero appeared to develop defensive on the suggestion that what’s taking place in India may be fascist.
“What in regards to the Muslims all over the world which can be attacking Christians?” he mentioned. “Does that trouble you too? Do you have got a report about that? Do you interview individuals about that?”
“Have you ever talked about perhaps all of the Muslim states being fascist as a result of they’re killing Christians?” he continued. “I simply hope that your good emotions concerning non secular freedom can be equally distributed.”
Down the corridor from Spero, a gregarious middle-aged man with a protracted white beard, black sun shades and a bald eagle skullcap walked round beginning conversations with fellow attendees. He mentioned he was a retired New York Metropolis cop who goes by the title Grizzly Joe. A enterprise card he handed HuffPost described him as “The Authentic Blue Supremacist” who blogs about “politics and counter-jihad.”
“Counter-jihad, to be clear, doesn’t imply anti-Islam,” Grizzly Joe defined. “For me, I don’t care when you’re Muslim, atheist, Christian, no matter. Counter-jihad, to me, is extra about what I name Quranic literalism. The Islam, if you’ll, of al Qaeda, and so forth., and so forth. The Taliban. Not westernized Islam.”
Grizzly Joe emphasised that he’s not a type of guys who thinks Trump “walks on water.” Nonetheless, he thought the president’s method to the violence in India was most likely pragmatic.
“To work on all the pieces with India that he must work on, you understand, all of our pursuits, all of India’s pursuits, typically you gotta sadly look the opposite manner, with the little particular factors that go on right here and there,” Grizzly Joe reasoned.
The similar form of Islamophobia that’s driving the repression and violence in India — which views Muslims as invaders and infiltrators —was in every single place on show at CPAC.
Within the exhibit corridor, a vendor hawked copies of books by anti-Muslim fanatics like Robert Spencer, together with “The Politically Incorrect Information to Islam” and “The Full Infidel’s Information to the Koran.”
Within the hallways, white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wandered round shaking arms and posing for pictures with followers, together with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer. (“Textual content me,” the congressman could possibly be heard telling Loomer.)
In 2018, HuffPost found that King sat down for an interview with a neo-fascist publication in Austria to debate the “Nice Alternative” conspiracy principle, which holds that Muslim immigration to Europe and North America quantities to an extinction-level occasion for white tradition and id. A 12 months in the past, Republican Home management stripped King of his committee assignments over separate feedback he made condoning white supremacy.
And but at this 12 months’s CPAC, King was a speaker on a panel about freedom of speech, giving opening remarks wherein he lashed out towards the “politically right police” all over the world and really helpful that individuals learn the work of fellow panelist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an anti-Muslim activist convicted of hate speech in Austria.
When it was Sabaditsch-Wolff’s flip to talk, she informed the viewers about how her activism towards the “Islamization of our societies” had made her a pariah in her dwelling nation. “I’m unemployable,” she lamented. “Not even McDonald’s will rent me. Who would wish to rent somebody like me, proper?”
Somebody within the viewers jokingly provided her a job.
By the point Trump took the CPAC stage on Saturday to provide the closing speech of the convention, the violence in New Delhi had stopped, however but extra harrowing tales of the pogrom have been rising within the information: two Muslim brothers crushed to demise, their our bodies tossed right into a sewer drain; an 85-year-old girl burned alive in her dwelling; mosques set on fireplace.
The president didn’t handle this violence in his remarks. As a substitute, he provided what was primarily a standup routine, ranting about windmills, “sleepy Joe” Biden, Mike Bloomberg’s peak, “By no means Trumpers,” “loopy” Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg’s resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman.
Because the speech ended and the group erupted in cheers and applause, Trump walked over to an American flag on stage — identical to he did final 12 months — and gave it a hug.