To some public figures in our country, it’s forever open season on Muslims in America. Jeannine Pirro, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and even our President continue to disingenuously portray Islam as a threat to all Americans. But should you really fear the brown guy sitting next to you on the airplane (and Muslims come in all skin colors); your Muslim coworker, the kid at school with the “funny” name, your next-door neighbor?
Muslims currently make up a little over 1 percent of the total U.S. population. The fact that their representation has finally started making headway in our government has triggered hysteria that shows no signs of abating, particularly amongst the many Republicans who seem to be making some shabby sort of career out of bullying Muslims and immigrants.
But President Trump and his loyal supporters aren’t just bullying a minority, though this would have been bad enough. They are pitting their fellow Americans against one another, sowing division that undermines everything we’re supposed to stand for as a country.
There is no shortage of examples, but one in which Trump managed to offend both Jews and Muslims in the same breath readily springs to mind. At a press conference last month, he went on this memorable tangent: “…where has the Democratic Party gone, where have they gone, where their defending these two people [ Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib] over the State of Israel. And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
The statement sent shockwaves throughout America. Both Jewish and Muslim Americans felt targeted by the Presidents comments. Jewish Americans that voted in favor of Democrats were being labeled as “disloyal” to the United States. Muslim Americans sat horrified at the onslaught of yet another Islamophobic attack by their President.
Pitting Americans against one another goes against the core principles instilled in me as a United States Marine. And questioning the loyalty of both Jewish and Muslim Americans to America by invoking the “you’re either with us, or against us” mindset is a dangerous game that puts the very core of what America is supposed to be about at risk.
During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has frequently targeted the Muslim community, both within and outside the United States. In 2015, Trump famously indicated he might support a “database” of Muslims living in the United States. In 2017, he succeeded in imposing restrictions on travelers to the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries.
More recently, Trump has targeted two Muslim members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). They were among four Democratic members who he said in July should “go back” to their home countries, although all but Omar were born in the United States. Then just last week, he attacked them again and seemingly persuaded Israel not to allow them entry as part of a congressional delegation.
Implicit in Trump’s comments, and in much of the criticism of Tlaib and Omar, is that they are not fully “American.” This is a problematic implication for two reasons. First, surveys show that, in fact, Muslim Americans are highly patriotic and mirror non-Muslims socioeconomically. Second, new research shows that even implicitly framing Muslim and American identities as separate may reduce Muslim Americans’ willingness to engage in politics.
I’ve seen personally what hate looks like. Back in the 1990s, as a young criminal defense attorney, I represented young men in two different cases who were eventually acquitted after being charged for defending themselves against white supremacists.
Ever since then, I’ve closely followed how the far right’s language and images have leached into society; how it tries to justify its existence while concealing its violence; and how it’s become a globally connected movement.
Recently, we’ve seen white supremacist violence escalate dramatically around the world, from the Pittsburgh and San Diego synagogue shootings to the murder at the anti-racist Charlottesville rally in the US; from the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand to last month’s surgical assassination of liberal German politician Walter Lübcke.
Not only did these killers share an ideology, but they drew inspiration from and celebrated each other. Despite this, under Donald Trump’s leadership, the FBI and Department of Justice have deprioritised investigating far-right violence.
These seemingly disconnected events are part and parcel of an emerging, global far-right movement whose core ideology is anathema to democracy. It uses nationalism as its cover, but make no mistake: its basic value is white supremacy.
In August 2017, three men from rural Illinois—members of one of our country’s numerous heavily armed and rather poorly regulated “militias”—drove to Bloomington, Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis, to plant an IED in the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center. Following their arrest, two of the men admitted their guilt. They had set out from Illinois, they said, determined to scare Muslims into leaving the United States.
“Why,” he asked, “don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?”
As the fact-checkers noted in their analyses of Trump’s newest “New Low,” only Omar was born in another country. For once, the president took the Pinocchios to heart: He homed in on Omar in a diatribe at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, a few days later, running through a litany of generically Islamophobic claims until the enthused crowd began chanting, for 13 uninterrupted seconds, “send her back.”
Editor’s Note:This working paper is part of a multi-year Brookings project—”The One Percent Problem: Muslims in the West and the Rise of the New Populists.” Other papers in the series are available here.
Despite representing a little more than one percent of the total U.S. population, American Muslims have long been viewed with suspicion by their fellow citizens. This has been true since the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis in the late 1970s, but American attitudes toward Islam turned especially negative following the September 11 terrorist attacks, which many American commentators blamed directly on Islamic religious doctrines.
The political right in the United States, on average, has exhibited more suspicion of Islam and Muslims than the political left, and many conservative media personalities have expressed considerable hostility towards Muslims. Other conservative political and intellectual leaders have called for religious tolerance, however. Thus, conservatives in the electorate have received mixed messages from elected Republicans and conservative opinion leaders. American attitudes toward Islam and Muslims became an especially important subject after Donald Trump was elected president on a right-wing populist platform that explicitly called for a ban on Muslim immigration. This paper examines Trump supporters’ views on questions of Islam, immigration, and national identity. Beyond asking whether Trump’s supporters favor exclusionary policies, I investigate how strongly these supporters feel about Islam, considering whether opposition to Islam is a critical part of their political worldview, or just one element of a broader nativism.
In this Sunday’s (July 14) issues, two American newspapers reviewed two recent books that throw some light on the Christian West’s ongoing quarrel with the Muslim East.
One book looks at the purported violence visited by the Turkish Muslim leaders with the alleged purpose of cleansing their country of non-Muslim populations.
This occurred after the Western militaries had defeated the once-powerful Ottoman Empire. This is a cautionary tale with the not-openly-stated purpose of alerting why the West has to be mindful of the dangers posed by the growing Muslim populations in the countries of the area.
The other looks at the violence that has come to be associated with young men of colour and is committed for no particular reason. It blames society in which they are growing up for much of their behaviour.
In Trump’s America, the quarrel with Muslims and people of colour is acquiring a sharp tone. For instance on the day these reviews appeared, the US President issued a series of tweets aimed at four Congresswomen of colour who had become his vocal critics.
Two of these — Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — are Muslims. The other two — Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressely — were born in the United States in families of colour. He suggested that these four lawmakers were not needed in the United States but could well serve the countries of their origin.
They should “go back to the countries they came from, rather than loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States how to run their country”, he said in a Tweet. After they have fixed their countries, they could return to the United States, said the President.
One has to admire US President Donald Trump‘s tenacity. Despite the many fiascos of his Middle Eastpolicy, he keeps going down the same path, with the same partners, come what may.
Since his first foreign trip landed him in Saudi Arabia and Israel two years ago, the president has been on a roll, trampling all over traditional liberal US policies, defying the United Nations, violating international law and heightening tensions in the Middle East – all at the request, or in support, of these special partners.
This trend intensified over the past few weeks. The White House overrode Congress to continue assisting the Saudi war effort in Yemen and lent its support to the renegade general, Khalifa Hafter, during his assault on the Libyan capital, Tripoli. It also proclaimed the Syrian Golan Heights part of Israel and gave approval to the Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian territories.
It tightened sanctions on Iran, designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp a “foreign terrorist organisation” and deployed carrier strike group battleships to the Gulf.
As a result of these policies, tensions throughout the region are escalating, yet the Trump administration won’t reconsider, let alone reverse any of them. It has only really done that once – when it stepped back from its hastily-taken position on the blockade of Qatarby Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt two years ago.