By Wasimul Haque
23 March 2016
It is highly unlikely that Donald Trump will ever make to the White House in 2017. Extreme right-wing parties and ideologues play a major role in encouraging opposition to Islam. These parties stir Islamophobia to gather votes and grow strong on the back of it. For American Muslims, it is now almost 15 years post-9/11 — yet the question remains on whether the continual scapegoating and marginalization of this community within the political sphere will ever end.
While the media focuses on the demagoguery of Donald Trump, the war-mongering of Ted Cruz and the sheer-unhinged nature of Ben Carson — the reality is that even “moderate” candidates, such as Marco Rubio are riding a wave of anti-Muslim sentiments, in order to seem tough on national security.
Trump has been one of the most controversial and divisive GOP candidates. He started his presidential race by a call to tear down mosques. In a recent interview by Anderson Cooper, aired on CNN Trump, stated, ‘Islam hates us.” Trump also made headlines in December 2015 when he called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US although there was a widespread condemnation of his remarks; Trump has stood by the proposal.
The very next day, another Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio attacked Trump for saying that Islam “hates the US,” in a televised debate in Miami. Rubio has a softer stand against Muslims.
Islamophobia gained momentum in the 21st century. We saw a gradual rise in global terrorism and exponential increase in anti-Americanism and anti-westernism in general, which gave birth to right-wing extremism in America and Europe. The politicians, political commentators, religious Christian leaders have equated mainstream Islam with terrorism, which lead to an increase in discrimination against Islam and Muslims.
A survey done by Pew Research centre, after 9/11 reports that, more than 50 percent Muslims feel that they are singled out for extra surveillance; less respected than other religious groups; victims of social alienation and more pessimistic than other communities about the future of their communities
There was a huge lack of political engagement and political presence before 9/11 but it is changing and the presence of American Muslims in US politics is increasing. Muslims now serve in the Congress.
Among the Muslims 38 percent claim to be moderate, 29 percent are liberal or very liberal and 25 percent are conservatives.
Muslims in the US have credentials, which easily refutes the misconception by the right-wing ideologues. It should be kept in mind that education is a priority for many Muslims, who, after Jews, are the most educated religious community surveyed in the US.
Will Trump tell the Muslims serving in Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, that they hate America? Will he say that to the thousands of Muslims serving as police officers, paramedics, judges, schoolteachers, and others in professions designed to help the people of this nation?
In October 2015, another Republican candidate Ben Carson stated that no Muslim should be president of the US, and he got a big boost in the polls. Republicans are thriving on hate to galvanize white supremacists and evangelist voters. The American nation has to consider the words of Eva Schloss, an Auschwitz survivor and stepsister of legendary Anne Frank, who warned in January 2016, that Trump “is acting like another Hitler by inciting racism.” Trump, not only targeted Muslims but has stirred up hate against Latinos. US President Obama while addressing thousands of attendees at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, said many Americans do not know a Muslim person and form a “hugely distorted impression” based on TV, film and negative news reports. Since 9/11, Paris and San Bernardino attacks, he continued, “You’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith.”
There is only one way of overcoming all these fears; true Muslims must describe their faith with patience and moderation and explain and show that an Islam purged of all nonsense is enlightened, progressive, opposes terror and commands love, brotherhood and peace. They must explain that the mentality equated with terror, slaughter and suicide attacks, that is against art, science and all beauty and that is hostile to other faiths derives not from Islam, but from deluded fanatics. Muslims must therefore engage in a systematic consciousness-raising campaign, bearing in mind that misinformation is perhaps the main cause of Islamophobia, that many people who fear Islam know very little about it and that much of what they think they know is untrue. Hillary Clinton has responded directly to rising GOP jingoism with inclusive rhetoric, calling Muslim-Americans “brothers and sisters” and refusing to use the term “radical Islam,” arguing that it “sounds like we are declaring war against a religion.”
One may question if Clinton’s present Anti-Islamophobia Campaign be called veiled opportunism? It is also true that despite her sentimental rhetoric, her policies and political affiliations are concrete and show that she has never been a friend to Muslims, nor will her administration be one.
Whether Trump wins the Republican nomination or the presidency is not important, he has shifted the political discourse toward a dangerous rhetoric that utilizes demagoguery to shape current and future policies.