A Debate to Remember: U.S. Presidential Candidates on Islamic Issues

Republican presidential candidates took to the stage for a debate ahead of the November 2016 presidential elections. Republican leaders were divided into two groups. The first group to take the stage included Senator Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Senator Rick Santorum and former New York Governor George Pataki who debated questions on stage at the Reagan national library in Simi Valley, California.

Among other questions, the Republican candidates were asked how they would strike a balance between security vigilance and anti-Muslim discrimination.


Presidential candidate Bobby Jindal called for Muslim leaders to denounce the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and call out any attacker by name to denounce their actions.

“They have got to denounce the individuals by name, and say these are not martyrs. These terrorists are not martyrs; rather, they are going straight to hell. They are not going to enjoy a reward in their afterlife,” Jindal stated.

He went on to criticize President Obama’s interaction with Muslim Americans.

“We are at war with radical Islam. Our president loves to apologize for America, he goes to the National Prayer Breakfast, brings up the Crusades, criticizes Christians. We’re at war today with radical Islamic extremists,” Jindal said.

Other Republican candidates seemed to follow suit and called for Muslim leaders to stand up against ISIS, while none of the candidates acknowledged that Muslim leaders around the world have already made such announcements. Muslim leaders from The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation, The Arab League, The Muslim Council of Great Britain, Al-Azhar, The Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council and many others have all come out publicly to condemn ISIS.

Republican candidate Lindsey Graham has been the only presidential contender to call for 20,000 American troops to be deployed on the ground in Iraq. Senator Rick Santorum stood in agreement with Senator Graham calling for 10,000 troops and claimed that the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ has legitimacy stating: “As long as they have territorial integrity, and even expand it, they have legitimacy and much of the Muslim world to call people to join their jihad here in America as well as in Iraq and in Syria. So we must take their ground.” This said, despite that fact that Muslim leaders have called ISIS illegitimate.

Senator Graham went even further to make a distinction between discrimination taking place in the US. “I am worried about radical Islamic terrorists who are already here planning another 9/11,” he stated. He went on to make a broad generalization stating: “Young men from the Mid- East are different than Kim Davis. And we’ve got to understand that.” He even called for the monitoring of websites. “Islamic websites need to be monitored. And if you are on one, I want to know what you’re doing,” Graham stated.

Republican presidential contenders still have the next year to win over Muslim American voters ahead of the 2016 Presidential election.

Watch the full debate here.


Written by Liz Yaslik

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Liz Yaslik is living in the heart of the ancient Fes medina. She currently works as a Middle East and North African researcher with Thomson Reuters and Morocco World News.