American Muslims ‘Trumped’ | Syed Mansoor Hussain

World, Opinion

Whatever might happen in the US’ politics this year, the year that just went by will be remembered as the year of Donald Trump. Almost every political pundit in the US is convinced that Trump will never be nominated by the Republican Party (GOP) to contest the general elections for the presidency of the US. But the same pundits were also convinced that by this time Trump would have faded away. That has not happened so it is difficult to predict how far Trump will go in the nomination’s process. Whether he ever becomes president is a different question but even if he does not, he has already made things pretty difficult for American Muslims. What Trump has against Muslims is an interesting question.

As a major international businessman, Trump has definitely dealt with Muslims, especiallyrich Arab sheikhs. In the past, he has not demonstrated any particular anti-Muslim animus but it was only after the Paris attacks and the more recent mass murders in California that Trump has become so vocal in his anti-Muslim attitude. However, before he went ballistic about Muslims it was another Republican contender,Dr Carson, who said that a Muslim should never become president of the US. Trump picked up that rhetoric and ran with it, and the more virulent he sounds the greater the support he gets from the GOP’s members. Trump, like all ‘good’ politicians, is doing his best to reflect the opinions of the ‘base’ of his party. Many Republican Party members harboured anti-Muslim sentiments even before the Paris and San Bernardino massacres. This sentiment coincidedin the past withpolls suggesting that a significant number of Republicans believe that President Barak Hussein Obama is really a Muslim. And it seems that these Republicans are transferringtheir ‘visceral’ hatred for Obama to all Muslims.

Based upon my suggestion above that much of the anti-Muslim sentiment expressed by Republicans is really the result of an Obama presidency it would seem that after Obama leaves office, American antipathy towards Muslims will subside. That might happen but we still have more than a year before the next president of the US takes over. And whatever else happens, in the upcoming presidential elections, Obama will be a factor even though he will not be contesting himself. Whoever it is, the Republican Party’s nominee will most likely continue with some level of anti-Muslim rhetoric. The worst-case scenario for Americans in general and American Muslims in particular is the possibility of another Islamic State (IS) inspired mass murder in the US. If that happens, it could push the Republican nominee even if it is Trump to the presidency. After all, the last Republican president rode to re-election on the basis of ‘security’.

What this means is that American Muslims are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. All that the few million American Muslims have to protect them is the law and the US Constitution. Fortunately for those who live in the US, these are pretty good protections. But what I consider equally important is not what is going to happen during the next year but rather over the next many years. After Obama leaves office and a new president is in place, the present political differences between the two major political parties will evolve and change. However, Muslims living in the US will have to try quite hard to refurbish their reputations as loyal American citizens especially if IS inspired attacks happen with any frequency and,more importantly,if the perpetrators happen to be Muslims born and brought up in the US.

In these difficult times, American Muslims must follow the lead of otherreligious and ethnic minorities that have found the US to be a hospitable place to live in. The most important necessity is not cultural or religious integration but rather political integration. Muslims should register to vote and participate actively in all elections starting from school boards all the way up to those for state and federal level officials,including that for the president. I still remember that some 30 years ago at a fundraising dinner for a state level politician I shared a table with a political operative. He said to me, “Doc, you donate $ 1,000as an election contribution to your local state representative and you have bought his total attention if he gets elected.” That is the rub. Our devout American Muslims would rather donate thousands of dollars to the local mosque (Islamic centre) to improve their chances for a better life hereafter, but are not willing to spend even a few dollars to improve their life herein.

One of the more problematic situations in the US is of who controls the ‘local’ mosque or Islamic centre and what sort of education they impart to Muslim children. I think it is reasonably well known that if any local group wants to build a mosque in the US, significant ‘foreign’ funding is available on the condition that the imam is of the funding country’s choice and receives ‘education’ in that country. Whether this is good or bad is beside the point. But most of these foreign trained imams bring with them a particular strain of Islam that is hostile to many basic American values. That poses a significant problem since devout Muslims, and especially their children, are subjected to ideas in these Islamic centres that in the name of Islam undermine respect for the laws of the country they live in.

What is happening is that many young Muslims are being brought up to believe that Islamic values are incompatible with American laws and that followers of other religions are somehow the enemy. That is the conundrum. If devout American Muslimsbring their children up to believe that sharia law is above man made laws, including the US Constitution,then they undermine the very concept of citizenship. And if that happens often enough, they will have proved Donald Trump right.


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