The Munira Ahmed poster by Shepard Fairey, used in many an anti-Trump rally.
Say what you dislike about Trump but the guy does keep his options open, especially when it comes to choosing an enemy. He has got so many: Wiretapping Obama, Crooked Hillary, the mainstream media, North Korea, left-leaning Republicans, all Democrats, most Mexicans, women he finds unattractive, inner city residents (i.e. black people), immigrants, the alt-left, and of course Muslims. Under Trump Islamophobia is definitely on the rise. Unfortunately under Trump hatred, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all types of bigotry are also on the rise.
There are brief moments, however, when America does seem to come together, where a united sense of humanity shines through. The recent natural disasters have brought out the best in many locals who have been hailed as heroes, including many who are likely to be affected by Trumps recent retractment of the Dreamers program, which looks set to deport some 800,000 young immigrants.
Another moment of ephemeral unity was during the recent eclipse that spectacularly arced across America. All the unnatural man made divisions were overshadowed, literally and metaphorically, by a once in a lifetime natural event. However, as soon as the the eclipse passed the divisions returned.
Likewise, just when you think there is a temporary feeling of collective order, Trump is sure to come along and destroy it. Take his reaction to the Charlottesville Nazi march. Denouncing Nazis should be presidential 101, but Trump clearly had other ideas, as noted quite scarily by Trevor Noah:
Seven months into his term—41 months to go, by the way—and the president of the United States has officially legitimized white supremacists. Basically saying we need to see things from the Nazis’ point of view. You know, march a mile in their boots…Here’s the thing: if so many of Trump’s supporters are willing to give Nazis the benefit of the doubt, then clearly anything goes. There is no line that they won’t cross and, clearly, no cross that they won’t burn. – Trevor Noah, 21 Aug 2017
An anti-fascist protester was killed during this rally by a Nazi sympathiser. 32 year old Heather Heyer was killed when a car drove into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville. One of her Facebook posts, written last year, read simply: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The comment went viral after being shared on social media in her honour.
The former president, Barak Obama, responded somewhat differently to Trump. Obama tweeted a quote from Nelson Mandela, a tweet that, at the time of writing, is the most liked ever.
The full quote is:
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. – Nelson Mandela, from the book Long Walk To Freedom
Another relevant quote related to Charlottesville came in the form of a sign held by an anti-fascist protester. The sign quoted Martin Luther King Jr:
I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. – Martin Luther King Jr
As I have blogged many times before hate comes in many shapes, sizes, colours, and forms. In Newcastle hate is Pakistani Muslim men who groom young white girls. In parts of India hate is Hindu mobs killing Muslims suspected of eating beef. In Burma hate is the army committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. In Minnesota hate is the bombing of a mosque (Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared the mosque bombing an act of terrorism, even if the President was deafeningly silent on the matter). In Yemen hate is cholera and starvation caused by the military actions of Saudi Arabia against civilians.
This list of hate unfortunately goes on and on. All of this makes it so hard to make any sense of the divided, dysfunctional state of our world. What people like Trump need to understand is that Islam is not the bogeyman, something that I believe he knows, but something that he uses to get what he wants. In pre-election times Islam was the bogeyman that Trump used to get him in power, as noted by crime fiction writer Ausma Zehanat Khan:
The rhetoric that ramps up in the United States during an election cycle has certainly affected me. As an election approaches there’s this search for bogeymen to invoke fear and rally people around a cause. I see a great deal of anti-Muslim rhetoric, to the point of anti-Muslim racism; a tremendous amount of bigotry fueled by demagogic statements by presidential candidates. Those statements score political points—they rally the base or an extreme section of it—and they also have very real consequences for the lived realities of Muslims in the United States. – Ausma Zehanat Khan, 02 Feb 2016, from an interview with macleans.ca
Now that Trump is in power, he needs hate, he needs enemies, he needs bogeymen to help him stay on in power. Not only are there political gains to be made in such ways, but financial ones too. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf historically delves into this concept a little further:
Duncan MacDonald [an American Orientalist] said that the three great civilizations on this planet are the Sinic, the Islamic, and the Christian. Until they find a way of living together harmoniously, we’re always going to be faced with the threat of these civilizations clashing. He wrote that in 1906, I think. We’ve been clashing for a long time. I think partly there are forces working on the world that don’t mind those clashes because they make a lot of money out of them. We have a huge armaments industry, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned this country about. I think they need bogeymen to scare people into having half their taxes going to military budgets. I’m as cynical as believing that they really don’t mind. I think they have some sociopathic tendencies that human suffering doesn’t seem to bother them a whole lot. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from an interview in The Cairo Review, Number 19, Fall 2015
Delving even further, the brilliant journalist Ramzy Baroud wrote an excellent article in which he clearly laid out the logical reasons as to why Muslims are not the enemy America thinks they are:
Anti-Arab and Muslim sentiments in the US have been around for generations, but it has risen sharply in the last two decades. Arabs and Muslims have become an easy scapegoat for all of America’s failed wars and counter-violence. Terrorist threats have been exaggerated beyond belief to manipulate a frightened, but also a growing impoverished population. The threat level was assigned colors, and each time the color vacillated towards the red, the nation drops all of its grievances, fights for equality, jobs and health care and unites in hating Muslims, people they never met…Blaming Muslims for the decline of the American empire is as ineffective as it is dishonest…Americans, Muslims are not your enemy. They never have been. Conformity is. – Ramzy Baroud, 13 Jul 2017, counterpunch.org, from an article entitled Fighting The Wrong Enemy: Why Americans Hate Muslims
Muslims pray during the Islam On Capitol Hill 2009 event at the West Front Lawn of the US Capitol in Washington, 25 Sep 2009.
Another journalist, Jennifer Williams, shares similar sentiments in a detailed article on the history of Islam in America, where she too warns of the growing negative views Muslims face in the States:
Islam’s roots in America go back to the Founding Fathers…Despite their long and rich history as an integral part of American society going all the way back to the founding of our nation, many Muslim Americans in 2017 continue to be treated as unwelcome foreigners. That is not a universal sentiment, to be sure, but neither is it a tiny fringe belief. – Jennifer Williams, 29 Jan 2017, vox.com, from an article entitled A Brief History Of Islam In America
I am hoping this blog post somewhat convinces certain people that the hate they feel for all things Islamic and for all Muslims is deliberately manufactured by some for a specific reason and, even when you think the hate is real, it is grossly misplaced. If further convincing is still needed then I leave you with this 16 minute film about Muslims living in Dearborn, Michigan. The people of this community embody what it means to be a Muslim in the USA today, and the film honestly captures their daily fears and their hopes for a better future: