Does Islam Hate Us?
This election cycle has put Muslims and their faith, Islam, in the spotlight. Presidential candidate Donald Trump says Islam hates America. Muslims are not a monolithic group and do not operate with a Borg like collective mind. While someone who is Muslim may hold negative opinions about America this is not born of their faith any more than a Christian who objects to American policy. Some Americans fear Muslims and the stoking of this fear can be politically advantageous.
This election cycle Presidential candidates have called for everything from carpet bombing of foreign lands that have a predominantly Muslim population to taking the position Muslims must pass a loyalty test to run for public office. The Republican establishment recently realized that their party, in the pursuit of pointing out Islamic extremists, has become increasingly attractive to extremists. It may be too late to stop the bigotry train as now Presidential candidate Donald Trump has put forth a policy of banning all Muslims from coming to the United States until “he can figure out what is going on”. While many in the Republican leadership disagreed with this concept exit polls conducted in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Texas suggest anywhere from half to two-thirds of Republican primary voters agree with the Muslim ban.
Recently Mr. Trump spoke to his motives behind this policy. Islam hates us. Not necessarily terrorists, but possibly all of Islam which has at least 1.5 billion adherents globally, at least 4 million in the United States, and at about a half a million in Florida. Governor Rick Scott of Florida was then asked his position on Mr. Trump’s comments and was unwilling to walk away from that statement instead dodging the question by saying Florida is a big melting pot.
If indeed Muslims hate America, they are attempting to kill it with kindness. In Florida, Governor Scotts’ home, there are at least two free medical clinics operated by the Muslim community and its numerous medical practitioners. The Red Crescent Clinic of Tampa Bay states it “offers free medical care for all mankind” and the UHI Community Care Clinic in Miami Gardens states it provides access to “quality healthcare for all regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, origin, sex and age.” In January of this year Muslims donated over 30,000 bottles of water to the residents of Flint Michigan. Flint’s water supply you may recall was poisoned, some say, with the knowledge of its Republican Governor. Project Downtown was started in Miami by Muslim students to feed the homeless. There are now over 20 chapters across the nation. Mr. Trump and Governor Scott obviously believe most Muslims have tremendous hate for America but this is more likely rooted in their own ignorance or more likely political opportunism.
It is this opportunism that is at the heart of what has become the most fascist sounding election cycle in recent memory. The public official or wannabe official feels Muslims are universally disliked so there is freedom to ramp up the rhetoric as to that group. Rhetoric altering what is acceptable public discourse about Muslims and influencing popular opinions. It would be convenient to say the perception put forth by Donald Trump is only an extremist view within a portion of the Republican Party voters. That is just not the case. In a Gallup daily tracking poll from December of 2015 over 40% of those polled harbored a prejudice toward Muslims.
The true challenge is replacing the Muslim boogey man with the reality that Muslims are very much like non-Muslims. Those who quietly disagree with the divisive rhetoric will only help to perpetuate it. Those who wish to see a better America come from this moment must act affirmatively. This includes American Muslims who must engage the American public and body politic in order to put forth three dimensional Muslims instead of the renderings portrayed by those who seek to capitalize on fear.
Author: Khurrum Wahid