By Mohamed Elmenshawy
"Dear Donald Trump, leading candidate for the Republican nomination:
Thank you for your cooperation, we sincerely hope it continues.
You, and what you represent, make our job so much easier, and truly make our quest for war without end between Islam and the West a reality."
The above is how I imagine the Islamic State's leadership (Da'esh or ISIS) responded to Donald Trump's latest remarks calling for a ban upon all Muslims' entry to the United States. Little more than unadulterated racist hatred, Trump's anti-Muslim diatribe must have greatly pleased ISIS's delusional leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Billionaire Trump announced his pledge to prevent all Muslims from entering the United States only a few short days after terror attacks waged by an American-born Muslim and his Pakistani wife in San Bernardino, CA. Trump, who styles himself as an expert of public opinion, justified his proposal on the grounds that, as a matter of religious principle, all Muslims hate Americans.
Trump's remarks were so outlandish that fellow Republican presidential candidates, as well as senior party leaders felt, compelled to condemn them, stating that Trump's invectives contravened both American and GOP values. As of yet, Trump has neither rescinded nor apologized for his comments; if anything, he has only become more consistent in his vitriol. Though Trump clearly does not represent every American, his remarks have placed millions of American Muslims in danger, engendering hatred and stoking the flames of Islamophobia.
Since its foundation nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, Muslims have played a crucial role in American society. Originally arriving as African slaves, Muslims have consistently immigrated to the United States since the end of the Civil War. Today, Muslims work in such prominent industries as diverse as film, literature, sports, and space; thousands even serve in America's armed forces. Though the US Government does not account for religion when conducting its census, independent analysis estimate close to 7 million Muslims reside in the United States. There are about 3000 mosques spread across all 50 states.
Furthermore, most American Muslims enjoy a higher standard of living than the norm, with 66% earning more than the United States $50K median household average yearly income. Unlike their counterparts throughout Europe, American Muslims do not live in poor, isolated, and ghettoized neighborhoods; instead, Muslims in the US reside wherever they desire, in the exact same areas as their Christian, Jewish, or Hindu neighbors. Though few are politically active at the national level, two members of the House of Representatives are Muslim, Keith Ellison (D - MN) and Andre Carson (D - IN).
One day before Trump announced his xenophobic proposal, President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office about his strategy for confronting terror and defeating Da'esh, enlisting Muslims in the fight against Islamic extremism. During his address, Obama categorically rejected the notion that Muslims should be treated differently than other American, noting that "American Muslims [have long been] and are prepared to fight and die for their country." Despite Obama's repeated assurances that terrorists do not represent Islam or Muslims, as well as has continued to refusal to refer to Da'esh as "Islamic" so as to deny it any semblance of the religious legitimacy it so desperately craves, Trump's remarks were considered more important and more meaningful.
Trump's provocative sound bite proved far more resonant than Obama's conciliatory speech for a variety of reasons, chief among them the fact that Trump's message of religious intolerance echoes ISIS' strategic goals of initiating a sustained conflict with Western nonbelievers, most notably the US. Da'esh will exploit Trump's foolhardy remarks to deepen the divide between Muslims and the US and recruit more disaffected youths to its ranks, just as it did when criticizing America's hypocritical response to the Syrian refugee crisis; Trump's statements legitimizing hatred and causing more instances of anti-Muslim violence and harassment will only lead to similar results.
Lest Trump's recent statements be dismissed as an inarticulate slip of the tongue, we should remember that his campaign has been chock full of diatribes against nearly every other minority group, regularly insulting women, Mexicans, the poor, and the disabled. As of this writing, Trump remains the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, garnering at least 30% of the vote in recent polls of likely voters in the Republican primary. Most troublingly, Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the US does not seem all that dissonant with views of the American public; recent opinion polls conducted over the past several weeks indicated that 37% of Americans view Islam negatively and 28% of American's believe Islam is a religion that promotes violence.
Despite the fact that the US is by far the most religious society in the West, its constitution is purely secular, as is its executive branch, legislature, and judiciary. In fact, the words "God" and "Christianity" never appear in the entire document, even more than 70% of Americans identify as Christian. The constitution only discusses religion as it pertains to the First Amendment's prohibition upon religious-based discrimination as well as its decree that Congress may make no law based in nor impugning upon religion, in addition to that, no religious test may be administered to anyone seeking federal employment. Accordingly, because the president is legally obligated to "preserve, protect, and defend," the Constitution, the White House asserted that Trump's anti-Muslim comments "disqualify" him from seeking the Presidency.
When political theorist Samuel P. Huntington published his seminal work, "the Clash of Civilizations" in 1993, it was met with nearly universal derision. Years after his death in 2008, the Clash of Civilizations remains highly controversial for how it depicts relations between the Muslim world and the West. Today, Da'esh and other like-minded terrorist groups, as well as hateful individuals like Donald Trump, give credence to Huntington's contentious and conflict-provoking theories long since discredited my mainstream thinkers and politicians.
In sum, ISIS' letter to Trump could only conclude as follows:
"Dear Trump, we wish you all the best.
We sincerely hope that you become the next President of the United States in order to strengthen our shared ties.
Mohamed Elmenshawy is Washington Bureau Chief for Alaraby Television Network, and a columnist for the Egyptian Daily Alshorouk.