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Georgia voters would overwhelmingly oppose a hypothetical state law designed to protect Muslims from participating in activities that violate their religious beliefs.
That was the finding of a Fox 5 Atlanta poll of 444 registered voters conducted a few weeks ago. The survey posed two awkwardly worded questions about religious freedom.
First: “What is your opinion of proposed legislation that would elevate or enhance the right of an individual in Georgia to claim their religious beliefs to justify to engage in or refrain from engaging in actions they view to violate their religious beliefs?”
25% of respondents said they favored such legislation. 35% opposed. 40% were undecided.
But the next questioned specifically raised the prospect of enhancing Muslim rights.
"What would your opinion be of this proposed legislation if it elevated or enhanced the rights of those of the Muslim faith in Georgia to claim their religious beliefs to engaging or refrain from engaging in actions they view to violate their religious beliefs?"
The number of respondents opposed rose dramatically, with 54% saying they would disapprove of legislation designed to enhance Muslim religious freedoms. Only 18% would approve.
Reading these questions left me scratching my head for two different reasons.
First: did I miss hearing about a bill in the legislature that was introduced by Muslims seeking special rights? (Hah—Muslims introducing a bill?—I kid. I think I'd see peace in the Middle East before I see Muslim-Americans engage in the political process).
In all seriousness, why did Fox 5 even ask the polling question about Muslims? Why would the Georgia legislature ever elevate or enhance rights of people based on any religion, whether Muslim, Christian or otherwise? Aren't all people supposed to be equal regardless of what faith they follow in the eyes of the law?
The polling question puzzles me, but its lopsided responses do not.
Living in Georgia, it is no surprise to me that people here would generally dislike Muslims. I also believe that the majority of the people who dislike us feel that way because of misinformation propagated by the media—not because they are inherently bigoted.
In order to spread such misinformation, Fox News regularly brings in Anjem Choudary—someone with no Islamic qualification or credentials to represent the views of 1.6 billion Muslims.
I am not surprised that Fox News was once again implicated in fuelling hate nor am I surprised that Fox 5 Atlanta’s survey posed this odd question to Georgia voters.
But the poll left one question unanswered: would voters oppose such (non-existent) pro-Muslim legislation because they do not believe any particular group’s religious rights should be enhanced above the rights of others? Or would voters oppose the hypothetical law because of religious bigotry against Muslims?
If the former, the poll results are understandable.
If the latter: it certainly is not looking good for Muslims in Georgia. And according to some Georgians, it ain't looking good for the Moslems either.
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