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Colbeck out of line with anti-Muslim campaign

The Detroit News

State Sen. Pat Colbeck apparently believes he can find traction for a gubernatorial campaign that has thus far failed to take hold by engaging in Muslim bashing. It’s a despicable tactic, and the senator should give it up to avoid further embarrassment to his candidacy and his party.

The Canton Township Republican and GOP gubernatorial candidate is appealing to the worst elements of the party’s base by attempting to link one of his Democratic opponents, Abdul El-Sayed, to international terrorist groups.

The thread Colbeck uses is thin; there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest El-Sayed, former director of Detroit’s health department, is anything but a loyal American citizen of the Islamic faith.

And yet because of El-Sayed’s name and religion, Colbeck senses an opportunity to play off anti-Muslim sentiments and fears of terrorism by launching unwarranted attacks on a Muslim candidate.

Colbeck has, in a number of forums, including two gubernatorial debates last week, suggested El-Sayed has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a Mideast terror group.

The evidence that Colbeck has presented is laughable. He notes that El-Sayed’s father-in-law sits on the board of the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and warns the advocacy and charitable organization was once mentioned in a Texas terrorism indictment.

Colbeck also says El-Sayed was a member of an Islamic student group while attending the University of Michigan that he claims has vague involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood.

From there, the senator extrapolates that because the Muslim Brotherhood supports Sharia law, the Islamic legal code, El-Sayed will work to tear down secular laws in Michigan if he’s elected.

“But we also have somebody I will also likely be running against in the general election, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, whose parents apparently have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood back in Egypt,” Colbeck said in one clip that was recorded during an anti-Muslim rant. “This is scary stuff.”

What’s scary is that there are still audiences in the state to whom such blatant bigotry and fear mongering have appeal.

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a large group. Colbeck is well behind in the contest, registering under 5 percent support in a three-man GOP primary race, according to the latest survey.

Unless things change drastically, he won’t be running against El-Sayed or anyone else in November.

And yet he does appear on debate stages around the state, giving him a platform to spew his intolerance.

The state Republican Party has denounced Colbeck’s remarks. So should Republican voters and donors.

Colbeck has offered some solid policy ideas on the campaign trail. He should stick to pushing them and stay away from inflaming hatred.

Colbeck lends credence to the worst stereotypes about conservatives and Republicans. And he presents himself as too narrow-minded to represent a state as diverse as Michigan.

He owes El-Sayed an apology, and Michigan’s Republican voters a more honorable and issue-focused campaign.