Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s insistence on his incendiary proposal to ban entry of all Muslims into the United States in the aftermath of San Bernardino massacre has received rejection and condemnation from across the broader political divide. Most of Trump’s Republican running mates were quick to reject his proposal, a day after President Barack Obama laid out his plan to defeat the ISIL and its supporters wherever they may be.
In a statement released to the media on December 7, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” said Trump, whose recent statements, calling for tough measures against Muslim Americans have caused deep anxiety among human rights groups and the Muslim community. About seven million Muslims call the United States their home.
Muslims are not the only community facing Trump’s tirade. He has also offended women, Jews, Mexicans, Chinese and immigrants by targeting them at different times during his campaign. The real estate mogul has in the recent past advocated the closure of American mosques and recommended special IDs and databases for American Muslims, in a flagrant disregard to American values. The values to which President Obama referred to in a televised address on December 6. While outlining his plan to defeat ISIL and threat of terrorism at home, Obama used significant part of his speech to remind Americans that the country’s Muslim population should be enlisted in the fight against extremism and terrorism rather than targeted with hate and suspicion.
“ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology,” the president said, adding: “Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”
But Trump remains unapologetic and continues his diatribe, risking peaceful and patriotic Muslim Americans lives, especially at a time when FBI is reporting increase in Islamophobia despite overall decrease in hate crimes across the nation. The Southern Poverty Law Project and leading Islamic groups have reported a spike in Islamophobia following the California massacre. But Trump is showing little moral responsibility, respect for democratic values or religious freedom, all in the name of homeland security. He is in the illusion that subjecting the country’s Muslim population to extraordinary scrutiny and discriminatory profiling will bring security. Strict measures for homeland security of course make sense but depriving a largely peaceful population of its basic constitutional rights is no strategy but insanity.
“Donald Trump is brewing up a toxic nativist sludge in what was once the American melting pot,” wrote respected political commentator Eric Lewis in a scathing commentary on CNN’s website. Unfortunately Trump’s bigotry is finding some receptive ears in the Republican party cadres who are rewarding him with higher approval ratings, thereby encouraging him to spread hate and fear. Many in the Muslim community are questioning the weak response of Republican establishment to Trump’s controversial statements with deep anxiety.
Republican party’s conservative credentials has traditionally attracted religious minorities. But the GOP establishment’s muted response over these deliberate efforts in its own ranks to stoke Islamophobia is making Muslims wonder if the party is formally shutting doors on them or for that matter on all religious minorities. Democrats certainly will benefit from it.
The Democratic leadership has been more proactive in challenging some of the Republican leader’s largely tunnel visioned national and world view, offering support to the Muslim Americans. “This Muslim community of New York City is an ally in the fight against terror,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said while visiting a mosque in Queens on December 4 as part of his effort to embrace the community. “We need to be clear. The people of this community desire peace and harmony and understand a sad fact: when acts of terror occur, all communities suffer.”
America’s divided Muslim community too has been least prepared to deal with the challenge of rising tide of Islamophobia. It lacks a national leadership and organization to build enough political pressure to respond to its stereotyping by bigots in the political arena. Muslim organizations have done little to chart out a strategy to check extremists in the community’s ranks. However, individual instances are abound across the nation where mosques and Islamic centers are increasingly asking visitors to inform their administrators if they see any suspicious activity in their communities.
“We condemn terrorism. We condemn the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, which has nothing to do with Islam,” said an announcement at Hillside Islamic Center in Queens after December 4 Friday prayers. One of the mosque’s directors advised the visitors to keep their eyes open and inform them if they notice any suspicious activity in their surroundings. While such announcements may be a norm in increasing number of mosques and Islamic centers across the nation, these may mean less to Trump because these may not help him widen his lead over his challengers. Unfortunately, it’s his incendiary talk that makes his divisive politics walk. But American voters will not allow Trump’s bigoted political ideology define the great American democracy.