With less than one month before Donald Trump takes office, the battle lines are clear. To Trump and his inner circle, it’s white Christian America against Islam. And that’s troubling for American Muslims.
“Aside from all the rhetoric that we heard from Trump during the campaign season, the most troubling thing looming on the horizon is his choice of cabinet members and advisers,” Imraan Siddiqi told Paste recently.
Siddiqi is the Executive Director of CAIR and the founder of the anti-Islamophobia group Hate Hurts. Paste contributor Roqayah Chamseddine also weighed in.
“Muslim Americans have already faced a security state that’s swiftly closed in around them,” Chamseddine said. “A Trump administration that’s now brimming with anti-Muslim right wing ideologues means that Muslims are now facing even more trying times.”
During Trump’s campaign, the billionaire’s appeals to xenophobia and othering of Muslims was a constant theme. Trump bragged about his plans to slaughter the families of terrorists— a term that has its own issues— and his plans to create a Muslim registry. All this worked to fire up a vocal minority of Americans, sufficient to give Trump the electoral college victory (if not the popular vote).
Trump’s National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, ended his career in the military two years ago after becoming increasingly unhinged and using counterfactual statements to express his antipathy to Islam. During Flynn’s time at the Defense Intelligence Agency, subordinates referred to “Flynn Facts” to describe the general’s beliefs—“Flynn Facts” described things the general stated as true that were obviously fantasy, conspiracy, or just whatever he thought at the moment.
Flynn spent the ensuing two years tweeting out anti-Islamic rhetoric like “Fear of Islam is RATIONAL” and setting the stage for a battle between the West and Islam. The general’s beliefs were clearly stated in July when he said in an interview with Yahoo News that, “Islam is a political ideology based on a religion.”
Trump’s proposed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, agrees.
In February, Carson wondered how Muslims could accept US values, given that it would be, in his view, an ideological conflict. Only a “schizophrenic” Muslim could possibly balance the two, he said.
“I don’t see how they can do it otherwise, because you have two different philosophies,” Carson said.
That’s not all. Carson also doesn’t trust Muslims in any positions of government, he said last year.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson said in a 2015 appearance on Meet the Press.
Siddiqi made sure to mention Carson when asked about Trump’s Cabinet.
“People like General Michael Flynn have openly espoused anti-Muslim hate on social media and are part of spreading virulent Islamophobic conspiracy theories,” Siddiqi said. “Ben Carson said during his candidacy that Islam isn’t compatible with the Constitution – and sadly a large number of Americans believe in this hateful rhetoric.”
Flynn’s Deputy KT MacFarland, a former official in Ronald Reagan’s Department of Defense, has similar views. MacFarland has been a constant critic of the Muslim faith and frequently conflated the religion and terrorism during her appearances on FOX News in the wake of a failed Senate campaign in 2006.
MacFarland described the War on Terror as, “a war on the scale of WWII” in the wake of the Orlando shootings in June. In other words, MacFarland believes that the current US struggle against random bombings, shootings, and other acts of violence that happen relatively frequently on US soil is directly analogous to a global war with six major superpowers fighting across most of the Northern Hemisphere and into the Southern.
“Having people with such biased positions definitely puts the Muslim community at risk of an increased level of targeting by the state,” Siddiqi said, “as well as a risk of being targeted by hate crimes.”
Trump has also met with a disturbing number of famed Islamophobes over the past month and a half. Frank Gaffney, whose Center for Security Policy is rightly reviled as a hotbed of hate and conspiracy, has been advising Trump on national security. Perhaps Gaffney will tell Trump where all the members of the Muslim Brotherhood in D.C. are (Gaffney believes the Islamist organization has taken over the US government).
Colonel Allen West was seen at Trump Tower on Dec. 5. It’s believed that the firebrand could be up for undersecretary of defense, which would be quite a comeback for a man dismissed from the military for firing a pistol next to a detainee’s head in Iraq during an interrogation. West’s hopes for the position may have been complicated by a Facebook post calling for the extermination—yes, extermination—of all Muslims earlier this month, though with Trump that may end up a net positive for West.
“This rhetoric is impactful, especially as it comes from figures who are now going to be influencing domestic and foreign policy,” said Chamseddine.
All is not lost, Chamseddine says.
“As hopeless and things feel, there is potential to harness this justifiable fear and anger and turn it into mobilization,” she said. “We have to organize, not just as Muslims, but alongside our diverse communities. We’re in this together.”
You can reach Eoin Higgins on Facebook and Twitter.
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