At another rally, Trump falsely spoke about the “tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the US.” In reality, fewer than 2,000 Syrian refugees have entered the US so far in 2016, less than a fifth of the intake promised by the Obama administration. At a rally in New Hampshire, Trump declared that as president he would kick all Syrian refugees out of the country and bar any more from entering, adding that they could be a “secret terrorist army.” In early December 2015, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US until our country’s representative can figure out what the hell is going on.” In March 2015, Trump said in a CNN interview, “Islam hates us.”
During the election campaign, Trump spoke strongly in favour of introducing “extreme vetting of Muslim immigrants” through tough security measures. He suggested the establishment of a registry of Muslims in the US, in which they would be required to register on a database, and a Commission on Radical Islam. This commission, according to Trump’s campaign website, would “denote and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to explore the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
In his election rallies, Trump promised to protect Christianity and to turn the US into a society where a salesgirl would wish the customers a “Merry Christmas.” At a rally in southern Georgia, Trump told a large crowd of cheering supporters that Christians and evangelicals should have more political power.
During the election campaign, Roger Stone, one of Trump’s friends and advisors, suggested that Huma Abedin, a long-time aide to Hillary Clinton, might be a “terrorist operative” who has an enormous amount of cash. He then said, “So we have to ask: Do we have a Saudi spy in our midst? Do we have a terrorist agent?” Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s advisors, earlier this year called for a new House Un-American Activities Committee to deal with “Islamic supremacists.”
Trump’s references to ‘radical Islam,’ his suggestions during the election campaign about setting up a registry of Muslim immigrants in the US and his appointment of people who have a record of Muslim-bashing to key positions in his administration have stirred fears about the stigmatization and victimization of US Muslims. The term ‘radical Islam,’ like ‘Islamic fundamentalism,’ is suffused with negative, pejorative and demonising connotations. During his two-term presidency, Barack Obama never used this term.
Trump has appointed Jeff Sessions, a notorious white supremacist, as US Attorney General. It may be recalled that in 1986, former US president Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions, then an attorney from Alabama, to be a federal judge. However, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected his nomination on grounds of concerns about his known racist views, which were attested by his own colleagues. Sessions has consistently displayed a pronounced animus towards civil rights, African-Americans, immigrants and Muslims. He has endorsed Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigrants and has often spoken about the “toxic ideology of Islam.”
Trump has appointed Michael Flynn as national security advisor and Mike Pompeo as CIA chief. Flynn, a former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency, has repeatedly referred to Islam as a “cancer” and has said that “a toxic ideology” lies at the root of Islam.” He said in a speech at the annual conference of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim grassroots organisation in the US, “Islam is like cancer……. a malignant cancer in this case.” Pompeo, like Sessions, has an Islamophobic record. After the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Pompeo falsely claimed that Muslim organisations and Muslim leaders in the US had not condemned the terrorist attack.
In the days following Trump’s win, there has been a spate of hate crimes, including physical assaults, death threats, verbal abuses, racist slurs and racist graffiti, against immigrants, Muslims, Hispanic Americans and African-Americans. On November 16, a Muslim student’s hijab was ripped off and her hair pulled down by a classmate at a school in Minnesota. A Muslim student at San Diego State University, who was wearing a hijab, was robbed by two white men who made offensive remarks about Muslims. They took away her purse, rucksack and car.
Several Muslim women have reported that Trump followers tried to rip off their headscarves while others said their families advised them to stop wearing headscarves for fear of attacks. Maha Abdul Gawad said she was shopping in a local Walmart when a white woman came up to her, pulled off her hijab and told her, “This is not allowed anymore, so go hang yourself with it around your neck.”
George Takei, an American actor, recently wrote in The Washington Post about the grave risks posed by Trump’s ascension to power, “when, in an atmosphere of fear or mistrust, one group is singled out and vilified, as Japanese-Americans were during World War II and as Muslim Americans are today. How terrible it is to contemplate, once again, that the government itself might once more be the very instrument of terror and division. That cannot happen again.”
Islamophobia’s paradoxical Fallout
Last year, listening to Trump’s hateful speeches at election rallies led a white American woman, Lisa Shanklin, to turn to the Quran to know what its real teachings were. She then decided to interact with local Muslims to find out for herself what they believed and how they lived their daily lives. An unbiased reading of the Quran and personal interactions with Muslims left her convinced that what she had heard and read about Islam and Muslims was entirely based on misrepresentation and falsehood and that Trump’s demonization of Muslims was born out of a deeply entrenched prejudice and malice against the community. This radical change in her perception led her to embrace Islam a few days ago. She has declared that on 20th January, when Donald Trump would be inaugurated as US President, she would start wearing the Islamic headscarf.
The Quran says: “Their intention is to extinguish Allah’s Light (by blowing) with their mouths. But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may resent it” (61:8).