By Debra J. White –
Donald Trump hasn’t spared Muslims from the wrath that galvanized his conservative base. During the campaign, Muslims were assailed numerous times. For example, at a rally in Rochester NH on September 17, 2015, Trump said, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one” (a common lie spread by the hard right during Barack Obama’s eight-year presidency). Later that month, at a rally in Keene NH on September 30, he pledged to kick out all the Syrian refugees because “they could be ISIS, I don’t know.” On October 21 he said, if elected, he’d look at closing mosques in an interview on Fox Television.
The following month, on November 21 at a rally in Alabama, he claimed to have witnessed the tumbling down of the World Trade Center on 9/11 from Jersey City while thousands of Muslims cheered. He later backed away from that statement when reporters went through videos and found no such evidence. On December 13 in another Fox News interview he called Muslims sick people. In March 2016 in a CNN interview he said Islam hates us.
Not long after taking office, Trump tried to follow through on a campaign promise to keep Muslims out of the USA. On January 27, 2017, he signed an executive order that originally banned all travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Iraq. Iraq was later taken off the list. That weekend, protests erupted in airports around the country from Seattle to Phoenix to Boston. Tens of thousands of people chanted sayings like, “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”
The original order imposed a 90-day ban on travel from those six countries. It also halted all refugees from entering the country, even those cleared for travel. No Syrians would be allowed to enter for at least 120 days. Lower courts in Hawaii and Maryland overturned the ban, saying it was unconstitutional. The Trump administration issued a reworded ban and it too was overturned by the courts in March.
The administration then appealed to the Supreme Court, which by then had the addition of conservative Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Trump. The administration waited for a positive outcome which it partially received. The court upheld a partial implementation of the ban for travelers from the six predominantly Muslim countries, plus North Korea and Venezuela. Meanwhile, challenges continue in lower courts.
Trump says the ban is necessary to prevent the spread of radical Islam from entering the U.S. Not all refugees who enter the U.S. are Muslims, however. According to the Pew Research Center, a non-profit institute in Washington, D.C., the largest number of the 85,000 immigrants to the USA in 2016 came from the Congo followed by Syria, Myanmar, Iraq and Somalia. Some Iraqis and Syrians are Christians. Most immigrants from Myanmar are Buddhists. The Cato Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, says that the Trump administration’s measures will have virtually no effect on improving national security.
In addition, there has been a significant rise in crime against Muslims since Trump announced his candidacy, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center, groups that track hate crimes. Those crimes include women harassed for wearing a hijab, verbal taunts from non-Muslims and violence against persons and property.
Each group tracks hate crimes differently but there is no doubt that hate crimes against Muslims and others have increased since Trump announced his candidacy. In a May 9, 2017 report, CAIR said that bias incidents increased 57% in 2016 from 2015. The Southern Poverty Law Center said that it tracked 200 reports of hate and harassment against minorities within the first 24 hours after Trump was elected.
The incidents collected by CAIR and other groups reflect not only bias claims such as verbal abuse but actual damage to property as well as bodily harm. For example, the only mosque in Victoria TX burned to the ground in January 2017. Dr. Shahid Hashmi, a surgeon and mosque president, called it a “total loss” in a New York Times article on February 9, 2017. There were no injuries but the mosque was destroyed. A suspect was arrested and taken into custody.
Another mosque, the Dar al Farooq in Minneapolis, was firebombed in August 2017 in the early morning hours as worshippers were gathering for fajr (morning prayers). No one was hurt. The mosque was damaged but not destroyed. No suspect was arrested. The mosque had received hate messages before the attack. When Trump was asked to speak out about the Minneapolis attack, his then-adviser Sebastian Gorka alleged in an August 8 MSNBC interview that the attack was perpetrated by the left.
A mosque in Tucson was vandalized in the early morning hours of March 13 (as reported in the AZ Muslim Voice). A man broke into the mosque and ripped up dozens of Qur’ans, scattering the pages throughout the prayer room. No other damage was done but it was clearly a hate crime.
There were even fatalities in an anti-Muslim hate incident in Portland on May 26. Police gave this account of the incident: Two young women, one Muslim and wearing a hijab, were riding on public transit. Jeremy J. Christian began taunting them and yelling anti-Islamic slurs. As several male passengers attempted to intervene, Christian pulled out a knife. He slashed the men, killing Ricky Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23. Another passenger, Micah Fletcher, 21, was seriously wounded. Christian was arrested and charged with capital murder and attempted murder.