During the lunch hour, my wife called me crying. A woman of color from a rainbow family, and a member of a religious minority group – I could feel her shaking in fear and anger through the phone. She wanted reassurance, to know her place still remained in a post-Obama America. I could summon no words of comfort. She reminded me that as a Jew myself, I lack Whiteness in eyes of an emboldened Alt-Right, White Nationalist. She is an other. I am an other. So many people we love are “others” because of the color of their skin, the God(s) they worship, or whom they love. When Trump says to make America Great Again, we aren’t the electorate he has in mind. On the exact anniversary of Kristallnatcht, Americans elected as President the most openly authoritarian candidate in our nation’s history.
My Dad, a moderate independent, who lodged a third party protest vote, tried to reassure me. Trump, he argued had used rhetoric to get elected and wouldn’t possibly pursue such troubling policies once in office. He’d already walked back part of his deportation strategy. In any event, Congress and the Supreme Court would act as bulwarks against extreme positions. Maybe. It’s equally likely that an activist Supreme Court and a Republican controlled Legislature won’t stand in his way. His initial list of appointees would amplify the echo chamber of his worst ideas and instincts. Even as Trump actually lost the popular vote, he mastered the enthusiasm gap between him and Clinton to win the Electoral College. Why wouldn’t he double down on the base who got him elected?
A leopard doesn’t change his spots. Trump will not magically become a competent leader, a decent human being, and bridge builder to communities he has scorched. No. He will continue to be the man who first attracted notice as the subject of a Federal Housing lawsuit for refusing to sell to black tenants. He will continue to be the man who advocated death for the Central Park 5, even after their exoneration through DNA evidence. He will persist in being the man who can’t quote the Bible, picks fights with the Pope (!), claims no need for God’s forgiveness, and traffics in Jewish stereotypes about money.
An Attack on Islam
As soon as PBS revealed Wisconsin’s fateful tally into the Trump column, my thoughts went out to my Muslim friends. I told them I loved them, and asked how (if at all) I could be an ally during this difficult time. Trump’s candidacy embraced Islamophobia to an unprecedented degree. Trump famously declared that “Islam hates us”, implying that Muslims couldn’t really be Americans.
The slim majority of Americans polled in March of 2016 agreed in principal to a complete ban on Muslim immigration (temporarily, but with no starting and end date). While violating nearly every civil rights statute, it would essentially reinstate immigration quotas rightfully ended over 50 years ago. Religious tests as a precondition for refugee resettlement are now a distinct possibility. Trump has gleefully flaunted 1st Amendment rights calling for the surveillance of Mosques, promising to shut them down if some invisible line is crossed. He has repeated the debunked narrative that Muslim-Majority Dearborn Michigan governs by Sharia law. He has doubled down on the myth that Jersey City’s Muslims cheered the fall of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
His suggestion to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS is a razor thin line. One day ISIS, the next, whatever enemy within the region he deems threatens our interests. The arsenal of the world’s most powerful army in the hands of a man who scarcely (and often incorrectly) processes complex international issues is a terrifying thought. Beyond Trump, the Islamophobia he has validated has real consequences. A trio of wacked Kansans were luckily apprehended before bombing a mosque. But despite that save, hate crimes against Muslims were up in 2015, and are up again in 2016. This is no accident. Because a subset of Americans believes Muslims aren’t, they are a vilified and targeted group.
I’ve reached out to friends to see how I can best serve as an ally. I have reached out to CAIR and will continue to do what I can to fight against misinformation and hate. If you believe in religious freedom, regardless of your own faith (or lack of), you have an obligation to stand alongside your fellow Americans.
An Attack on Judaism
Earlier this year, the KKK’s Newspaper, The Crusader, did all but endorse Trump. That issue includes articles on supposed Jewish links to terrorism and sinister plans to control the world financial markets. Hate groups such as the KKK, and White Nationalists (who seek to professionalize and mainstream bigotry) believe the Trump candidacy was a once in a generation opportunity. They supported Trump, and flocked to his xenophobia, his racism, his religious intolerance. Despite eventually disavowing David Duke, Trump kept using racially coded language to convince under-educated and under-employed Whites that their primacy was under threat.
Trump’s campaign has been rife with Anti-Semitism. Chants of “Jew-S-A” have echoed through the halls of rally sites. Jewish stars decrying Hillary’s corruption were transparent nods to anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists. His Son-in-Law and Daughter may be Jewish, but that is of little value to Trump supporters on the Alt-Right. As we’ve repeatedly seen, today’s Islamophobia is tomorrow’s Anti-Semitism. The ADL is reporting an uptick in documented hate speech and hate crimes directed at Jews (or even those perceived as such).
An Attack on Religion. Period.
In a previous post directed to Evangelicals, I outlined objections they should have had in voting for Trump. They should know that abridging the religious freedoms for the other Abrahamic faiths could eventually impact them as well. It’s not so great a leap to make that restrictions imposed on Muslims could eventually be extended to certain groups of Christians. Instead of forcefully rejecting a man who worships the Golden Calf of money, fame, and women – they have cast their lot with perhaps the most unChristian president of all time. If (and when) our legally protected religious freedoms come under attack, we’ll need your voices to be heard.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am no genius. Instead, I did some crowd sourcing to the prompt, “How I can fight Islamophobia /religious intolerance and be an ally?” I am indebted to my friends for their thoughtful responses, particularly in the wake of such a traumatic election.
Ahmad: “The real damage is the message sent to our community. The message that public hate is now acceptable. We, as the people, have to be more vigilant than ever because injustices and repression will be more publicly displayed than ever.”
Liala: “How people can be an ally: random acts of kindness to show hate is not OK. If you see something wrong – someone being mistreated – speak up and do something. Teach our kids that there are all different types of families, religions and people, and they can all be good. Difference is not something we should hate, like what Trump has taught some people to do. Differences are not something we should fear. We should teach children these values. We should live these values, and more than ever we should not be afraid to speak out against hate, bigotry, and sexism. I’ve never felt less physically safe in my own country than I did today. But I’ve always had faith that people are good at heart. We have to educate people who are ignorant about minority values and culture. We have to somehow just survive.”
Aliyah: “When I’m asked what we need to do, we need to unite. We need to be voices for one another against this nonsense – you, me, everyone with a conscious. (As Muslims). we appreciate (non-Muslims) reaching out. Oddly enough (with the election of Trump), maybe this will strengthen some bonds across communities. How beautiful would that be.”
Iman: “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the last few months is how much being uninformed (or misinformed) effects people’s decision making (rational vs. irrational). In this case, a huge part of Trump’s campaign was based on misinformation about Islam, about ISIS, and about international and domestic threats from Muslims. We have an obligation now to educate people about what Islam really is. What does it mean to be a Muslim? What are the actions of faith in Islam? How can we teach others the positive aspects of Islam like Peace, Mindfulness, and Acceptance? We need to start with those who are willing to listen, and continue speaking to those who may have deaf ears (now), but to try anyways. We aren’t giving up or giving in.”
Moustafa: “If there’s any good news to come out of this election, it’s that the country now recognizes the potent political force that is Islamophobia. And Americans are beginning to understand that fighting anti-Muslim bigotry is not fundamentally about protecting Muslims, but about preserving the vision of a functioning, pluralistic and democratic society. Now we must be prepared to do the work necessary to hold our leaders to that standard every day, and not just once every four years.”