As President Donald Trump reaches the first 100-day milestone of his presidency, it is opportune to examine his policy toward Muslims, who have witnessed a troubling rise in hate attacks against American citizens of Islamic faith as well as their places of worship since the 2016 Presidential election.
In addition to Muslims, those swayed by xenophobia have targeted the Jewish, Sikh and Hindu communities as well. It’s a welcome sign that this week President Trump sent out a strong message against anti-Semitism and expressed solidarity with members of the American Jewish community. Earlier, the White House had also condemned a wave of attacks against Indian Hindus.
But what about American Muslims? In the first week of his presidency, Mr. Trump slapped a ban on entry of citizens from seven Muslim majority nations, and through an Executive Order, halted arrival of refugees that the U.S. had pledged to take in as its share of the those displaced by wars and persecution.
Though both of these Executive Orders are frozen under court orders, the travel ban on citizens of Muslim majority countries – later reduced to six with the exclusion of Iraq – sent a terrible message: that followers of the faith were all suspected terrorists and that the United States could not trust followers of Islam. Coming in the wake of anti-Muslim rhetoric by several candidates during the 2016 primary election campaign, and coupled with the use of inflammatory expressions like “radical Islamic terrorism” further stigmatized the American Muslims.
As a result, many extremist and hate groups have used Islamophobia as a license to attack mosques and Muslims. According to the FBI statistics released in late 2016, attacks against American Muslims and their places of worship have soared by 67 percent.
Undoubtedly, all Americans, including Muslim citizens, expect our government and law enforcement agencies to protect them and their places of worship. As President, Mr. Trump has taken an oath to protect all Americans against all kinds of threats and dangers without regard to their religion, ethnicity, color, gender and sexual orientation.
American Muslim Institution (AMI) is on record in condemning extremist violence in all its forms and is dedicated to playing our part in protecting the United States. AMI wants fellow Americans to know that is why thousands of American Muslims are serving in the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies across the U.S., and many have laid down their lives in protecting the homeland.
AMI believes that acts of violence and discrimination against any ethnic group is un-American and against the U.S. Constitution and laws, which clearly guarantee that every citizen is entitled to religious freedom, equality and civil liberties.
In the current global context, we cannot ignore the fact that Muslims are the largest victims of terror groups – al-Qaeda not only perpetrated 9/11 terror attacks against the U.S. but also has killed thousands of innocent Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Likewise, the ISIS has killed thousands of Iraqis and Syrians. The Taliban have killed both Pakistanis and Afghans in large numbers.
American Muslims have spoken out forcefully against the menace of terror through their speeches, writings and demonstrations. AMI has been part of such endeavors to create a strong bulwark against extremism and terrorism.
It can hardly be overemphasized that American Muslims can be the greatest force in the fight against terror.
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, President George W Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington to give a clear message that America was not at war with Islam and that Islam, or the overwhelming majority of Muslims believing in peaceful coexistence, were not responsible for actions of a few violent terrorists. At the AMI, we believe that President Trump needs to reassure the American Muslim community just as he has reassured the American Jewish community.
Keeping up the great American tradition of multiculturalism and pluralism, the Trump Administration should enunciate a clear statement, acknowledging American Muslims’ tremendous contributions and partnering with them in the fight against extremism and violence.
AMI appreciates the solidarity expressed by millions of Americans by rejecting any kind of discrimination against fellow Muslim citizens with their opposition to travel ban and their condemnations of vandalism of mosques.
One way for the Trump Administration to do this would be by appointing a Special Assistant to the President in the White House, who would liaise with Muslim communities. Such a step along with condemnation of attacks against Muslims by the President would serve America well in the years ahead, and reassure American Muslims, who have been the subject of harassment, vandalism and physical attacks since last November.