In late January 2001, the day after George W. Bush was sworn into office, a group of conservative politicos including recently retired House Speaker Newt Gingrich gathered at Grover Norquist's Washington, DC, office for a meeting with influential faith leaders.
That, in itself, was hardly newsworthy. Bush had swept into office on the backs of values voters. But the gathering wasn't catering to evangelical Christians; the purpose was to discuss a variety of issues of concern to American Muslims—everything from political appointments, to civil liberties, to a Ramadan postage stamp. It was organized by the Islamic Institute, a think tank founded by Norquist, the conservative anti-tax crusader, and the guest list was culled from the ranks of Muslim–American organizations and community leaders. By some estimates, Muslims had turned out in huge numbers for Bush; at least one prominent Republican credited them with making the difference in Florida.
But those days are over, and if the rhetoric from the current crop of candidates is any indication, there's little hope for a rebound in 2012. Since 9/11, Republicans have turned a once-promising—and rapidly growing—voting demographic into a punching bag. Lately, Republican lawmakers across the country have further antagonized their Muslim constituents by pushing quixotic legislation to ban Islamic sharia law from being used in state courts. Even the founder of the group Muslims for Bush, Colorado GOPer Muhammad Ali Hasan, left the party, citing frustration with its newfound anti-Muslim "bigotry."