While some GOP presidential contenders ratchet up their anti-Muslim rhetoric to toxic levels, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniel (R) is set to accept a prestigious award next month from the Arab American Institute.
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Maya Berry, executive director of AAI, told TPM that the award was incidental to his status as a possible presidential candidate and celebrates his broad record of public service and his Syrian heritage, which is not commonly known. Nonetheless, she noted that Daniels' award comes at a time of increasingly mainstream anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in conservative circles.
"It's a moment to honor our own and Mitch Daniels goes back to the founding of the institute as one of our earliest supporters," she said. "We have a community that comes with some unfortunate political baggage in terms of bigots...it's just nice when folks are proud of their ethnic background and don't allow that kind of politics of exclusion to get in the way."
Berry noted Daniel's emphasis on fixing the economy and the group's website praises his call for a "truce" on social issues, a quote that has invited heated attacks from religious conservatives.
"I think he's been the adult in the room," Berry said.