Guest column: Trump presidency elicits violence and hate toward Muslims
One year ago, I wrote how America was becoming increasingly polarized with each passing election. Our nation has a long history of struggling with diversity, namely non-white cultures and, in recent decades, Islam. After Trump’s surprise victory, the words of the writer DaShanne Stokes come to mind: “Trump didn’t divide America. He just doused us with gasoline and fanned the flames.”
That is where we are today. Barely eight months into the most wild, complicit and unstable White House administration in memory. The local mosque at Bloomington, Minnesota was not spared the flames of an improvised bomb on Aug. 5. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton acknowledged the attack as an act of “terrorism,” while White House aide Sebastian Gorka called the incident a “false flag” report.
The president himself could not be bothered to comment. This cycle of events typifies the recent history of Islamophobia in Trump’s America.
Since Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, several hate crimes against Muslims and their sympathizers have gripped our nation.
Besides Minnesota, they include: the local mosque burned to the ground in Victoria, Texas (Jan. 28) taking place just hours after Trump signed the first “travel ban;” the heinous train attack in Portland, Oregon (May 26), where two good Samaritans were stabbed to death for fending off a white supremacist affronting Muslim girls in public; and the grizzly murder of a young girl worshiping at a mosque during the month of Ramadan in Victoria, Virginia (June 18).
By July 2017—just last month—Newsweek reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes “increased at an alarming rate.”
A report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found more than 940 reports of potential bias targeting Muslims in April, May and June, according to Newsweek.
The magazine continues: “Of those, the organization determined 451 stemmed from anti-Muslim bias, which contributed to a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during the first half of the year as compared to the same time period in 2016.”
Newsweek also reported in July that “the rise in hate crimes against Muslims shows what politicians say matters,” and that is exactly right. Given Trump’s instability, news agencies including The Washington Post have done exhaustive reporting on his comments about Islam and Muslims.
Between the plethora of Trump’s embarrassing malarkey was his statement “I think Islam hates us,” which aired March 9 on CNN for the world to see, and various “white nationalists” and domestic terrorists waiting to take their cue, is it any surprise that hate crimes against Muslims has sky rocketed given the direction of our leadership?
However, Trump has made sure not to let his administration’s rhetoric against Islam and Muslims get in the way of business. In May, he and key members of his family and administration—the two frequently overlap in autocracies—made a nine day visit to Saudi Arabia where he personally accepted an award from King Salman, performed the traditional male sword dance and secured a $110 billion arms deal.
The spectacle was not complete without his praise of Saudi Arabia’s efforts fighting Islamic extremism. This comes a year after Trump blamed them for 9/11 and condemned their treatment of gays and women. The visit showed the world the extent to which the American people are being taken for a ride; Muslims, Mexicans and refugees are just in the front row seat right now.
Just days into office, Trump signed his infamous travel ban, which after being struck down by a federal court was rewritten, struck down again, then reinstated by the Supreme Court. From travel ban to travel ban—between January and June of 2017—America roiled amid days of national protest and renewed civic activism.
In subsequent weeks, I wrote an open letter to the Trump administration. Between immigration attorneys and clients’ family members, my phone did not stop ringing.
On the night of Jan. 29 I stayed on the phone till 2 a.m. speaking with an attorney in Washington, D.C., then the sister of a petroleum engineer detained at Austin-Bergstrom.
She was unsure if she would see her loved one again—a feeling which has scorched many immigrant families in 2017—especially since he was returning from work in Iraq (banned under the initial law).
To this day, I remember the sound of her voice, quivering but courageous. Maybe that is the lesson. Fear does not have to lead to hate. Fear can be the first step toward courage, toward an America for us all.
Emran El-Badawi is the program director and an associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies. He is also the founding executive director of the International Qur’anic Studies Association. El-Badawi can be reached at [email protected]