Islamophobia on the Rise Due to President 45: An Op-Ed

Islamophobia on the Rise Due to President 45: An Op-Ed

By Yousra Jouglaf

“[I call for] a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” [1]At the time this statement was made, Donald Trump was the Republican frontrunner in the 2016 presidential election.[2] Less than a year later, Trump beat out Democratic-nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, laying claim to the presidency in a surprising win.[3] However, three years later, and in the face of rising white supremacy and its supporters, his win no longer seems so surprising. Trump’s rhetoric against ethnic minorities caused what can only be described as the rebirth of xenophobia; white supremacists across the country and the world began to come out of hiding, finding warmth under the spotlight Trump cast for their bigoted beliefs to finally show. Two dates now haunt the Muslim community for the rest of their lives: 9/11 and 11/9, the date Trump became the U.S. President-elect.[4]

Upon Donald Trump’s taking of office, he has not been shy about his condescension of non-white communities. White supremacy has been on the rise since his term began — in 2017 alone, the Federal Bureau of Investigations reported 8,126 hate crime offenses with 8,493 victims.[5] In an analysis on single-bias incidents, the FBI reported that 58.1% of those hate crime incidents were motivated by race, with an additional 22% prompted by religious bias.[6] These incidents share a common denominator: bigotry on the rise.[7] Americans across the nation have serious concerns about the rise of bigotry and white supremacy; in a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 63% percent of 1,238 surveyed voters nationwide responded “yes” to a question asking whether Trump’s election has increased prejudice and hatred in the United States.[8] Ethnic minorities and their white counterparts alike voted similarly, with genuine concern for the safety of their families and their neighbors.[9]

This concern has become a serious plight for Muslims around the world and in the United States. But the increase in concern begs the question of what caused it in the first place, and moreover, how does one become a radicalized white supremacist to begin with? White supremacists are commonly misconceived as “disaffected white guy[s] with economic anxieties.”[10] Research conducted by Kathy Blee of the University of Pittsburgh, an expert in white extremism, shows that this misconception is not only untrue, but very dangerous.[11] It’s casual viewers, usually white males, belonging to the middle class who are drawn into the white supremacy movement.[12] White supremacist groups pander to the specific fears of these viewers, targeting people “who are aimless, marginalized, isolated, and quite extreme in their thinking.”[13]

In the United States alone, there has been a steep increase in white supremacy-motivated hate crimes since Trump’s reign began.[14] White supremacists in the U.S. have been linked to at least 50 deaths within the last year, whereas “Islamist extremism directed at Westerners has dropped dramatically.”[15] Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California University, San Bernardino noted that, “This threat of homegrown, far-right-wing white nationalism, terrorism, and extremism is the most prominent threat facing our nation.”[16] As polarization continues to plague our country, the targeted groups for hate crimes have been immigrants and foreigners, with special focus on Muslims and Jews.[17] As the rise in hate crimes continues, we see little national leadership and sensitivity from Donald Trump, whose most recent comment on the rise of white supremacy was to defer blame to “a small group of people ‘with very, very serious problems.’”[18] Trump blatantly denied the existence of a “worrying rise” in white supremacy.[19]

The “small group of people” he referred to, however, did not find the spotlight for their supremacy to shine on their own.[20] In fact, Brenton Tarrant, the New Zealand terrorist who took the lives of 50 Muslims, had an 80-page manifesto in which he praised Trump, mentioning him by name because he “saw him [Trump] as a symbol of renewed white identity.”[21] When questioned about the Charlottesville, Virginia event where white nationalist marchers met counter-protesters in a violent riot, Trump’s response did not decry the white nationalists. Instead, Trump took to Twitter to define the nationalists as “very fine people.”[22] When questioned about his endorsement from Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Trump noted he would not want to unequivocally condemn them and refuse their support without knowledge of the group and the people in it; instead, he noted there are members of the KKK that may be “totally fine”, and disavowing their support without personally knowing them “would be very unfair.”[23] This is the same man who ran on a platform classifying all Mexicans as “rapists and drug dealers”, and Muslims as “radical Islamic terrorists” deserving of a “Muslim ban”. Trump’s rhetoric is clear: when it comes to minorities, the act of one man speaks for his entire race or religion. Yet when it comes to white supremacists, he can only refer to them as “very fine people”.[24]

On March 14th, 2019, New Zealand’s Muslim Christchurch community gathered at the Masjid al Noor Mosque for Friday prayers, the holiest day of the week for Muslims as they pray “Jumu’ah” together in an act of congregational worship.[25] Muslims gather at different mosques for worship and to “develop unity, cooperation, and cohesiveness” within both Muslim and non-Muslim communities.[26] It is meant to be a day of peace, love, and worship. It is now, however, a day that has been slightly tainted with the fear of untimely death as Muslim worshippers and their family members alike have sought to reduce their attendance for fear of attack.[27] Now, when devout Muslims return for Jumu’ah prayer, they may no longer be picturing a peaceful house of worship; instead, they may see Brenton Tarrant’s unapologetic face flashing a symbol of white supremacy at his initial sentencing.[28]

Trump’s rhetoric has undeniably played a large part in the rise of white supremacy. From the very beginning of his campaign, Trump has targeted minorities as cause for the different issues plaguing our country.[29] He has emboldened white supremacists and other extremists by displacing blame on innocent minority groups, causing a larger rift and further polarizing an already divided nation.[30] Trump centered his campaign platform around appealing to the right-wing supremacists who have caused the very trauma minorities are experiencing today. He constructed an “Us v. Them” narrative, defining Muslims as a violent threat to the safety of American citizens.[31] This xenophobic rhetoric resonated with extremists who had been searching for further reason to hate their Muslim neighbors, because if the president can speak hatefully toward Muslims, then why can’t they?[32] It gave them the permission they needed to come out of hiding, for they finally had a president who shared the same sentiments about minorities they did.[33] Trump ostensibly legitimized and lent credibility to their fear, and that was all white-supremacists needed to inspire their violence-driven views and actions.[34]

Trump’s rhetoric may not be the proximate cause of the rise of xenophobia, racism, and hate crimes, but it is surely the ground by which white supremacists have found their footing. Trump has played an integral role in heightening the fears white supremacists already held, and his continued denial of white supremacy’s rise only furthers legitimizes its existence. Not condemning the acts of terror against the Muslim community (both nationwide and internationally) as acts of terrorism stemming exactly from white supremacy is an issue in itself. The blind eye Trump has turned numerous times against minority communities is the same eye which sends a wink of approval to extremists looking for a reason to incite violence and murder communities of color. The notion of white supremacy is rooted in the belief that the Caucasian race reigns supreme above any and all others,[35] and Trump’s refusal to discount such a notion only further fuels the fire that will eventually overwhelm us all.

When that day comes, the Muslim community will open its arms to any and all seeking help. And we will open our arms just as Christchurch’s first victim, Hajj-Daoud Nabi did, with a “Welcome, brother.” We can only hope the rest of the world will do the same.

[1] Johnson, Jenna Trump Calls for ‘Total and Complete Shutdown of Muslims Entering the United States,’ WASH. POST (Dec. 7, 2015)

[2] Id.

[3] Author Unknown, (Nov. 9 2016), https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37920175

[4] Oakley, Nicola “11/9 is the new 9/11”: Americans Liken Trump’s Win to Most Devastating Day in Country’s History, MIRROR (Nov. 9, 2016)

[5] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting Program ‘s Hate Crime Statistics (2017), https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/incidents-and-offenses

[6] Id.

[7] Id. 

[8] Malloy, Tim Hatred on the, American Voters Say, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Concern about Anti-Semitism Jumps in One Month (Mar. 9, 2017)

[9] Id.

[10] Siegler, Kirk, A ‘Mainstreaming of Bigotry’ As White Extremism Reveals Its Global Reach, (Mar. 16, 2019)

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Collinson, Stephen, Trump Again Punts On White Supremacy After New Zealand Attacks, CNN (Mar. 16, 2019).

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Merica, Dan, Trump Says Both Sides to Charlottesville Backlash, CNN (Aug. 16, 2017).

[23] Kessler, Glenn, Donald Trump and David Duke: For The Record, Washington Post (Mar. 1, 2016).

[24] Kessler, Glenn, Donald Trump and David Duke: For The Record, Washington Post (Mar. 1, 2016).

[25] Author Unknown, Salutal-Jumu’ah, https://www.alislam.org/library/book/salat/friday-prayer/

[26] Id.

[27] Hui, Nicole, Canadian Muslim Community Afraid to Attend Mosque After New Zealand Shootings Today, Narcity. (Mar. 14, 2019)

[28] Feuerherd, Ben, New Zealand ‘Shooter’ Flashes ‘White Power’ Symbol in Court, New York Post. (Mar. 15, 2019)

[29] Ye Hee Lee, Michelle, Donald Trump’s False Comments Connects Mexican Immigrants and Crime, Washington Post (July 8, 2015).

[30] Id.

[31] Williams, Jennifer, Donald Trump’s Speech Scared Me as an American Muslim. It Should Scare You, Too. Vox. (June 14, 2016)

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Id.

[35] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white%20supremacist

Palestine and Israel: The Endless War  

  Palestine and Israel: The Endless War  

By Yousra Jouglaf

Conflict between Palestine and Israel has prolonged for many decades now, seemingly escalating with each passing day.[1] Members of differing parties are polarized by the issues they deem most pertinent to the ongoing conflict: from human rights violations by the Israeli government to declarations against Hamas as a terrorist organization, there is endless debate about which side is in the right.[2] And while the conflict appears to be between only these two countries, the issue itself has expanded beyond their borders, affecting many nearby regions and countries.[3]

Different factors have played into the escalating conflict between the two nations; beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the origins of the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration into Palestine in 1948. This began the initial dissolution of the Palestinian administration and hold over Gaza as conflict escalated post-WWII when Jewish descendants who had been displaced by the Holocaust sought to establish sovereignty in a new homeland.[4] Despite being able to choose anywhere in the world to settle, Jewish citizens felt a connection to the land of their self-claimed birthright, choosing to settle in the then recognized nation-state of Palestine and eventually beginning the process of displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes.[5] A Zionist movement had begun to take place, led by its father Theodor Herzl, and many Jewish citizens responded positively to the movement “in response to a rise in anti-Semitism across Europe.” [6] Despite providing a home to settle within for their displaced Jewish neighbors, Palestinians quickly began to become relocated by the new Jewish settlements, and petitioned Ottoman rulers to regulate the numbers of Jewish immigrants settling into their lands. The increase in settlements created a genuine concern that the Arab culture and religion of Islam would dissolve under the new Jewish influence, effectively dissolving the “Arab territorial unity of the Middle East” as well.[7]

The violence of the conflict has only grown with the cultural and religious differences each country is rich in, finding further conflict in key issues such as water rights, land rights, control of the shared holy land of Jerusalem, and their defined and constantly re-defined borders.[8] These issues have expanded into global complications, extending from human rights claims by Palestine against the Israeli government, to security issues each country shares against one another.[9] In 1997, both nations engaged in the Middle-East Peace Process in hopes of finding a resolution to the conflict that plagues their countries, and adopted the first of the Oslo Accords.[10] This led to the creation of Palestine from “the Israeli lands of Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza,” hoping to reduce the tensions they share.[11] However, this formal recognition of Palestine’s ownership of Gaza has led to escalating conflict, as Israel moved to explicitly declare its nuclear capabilities after its loss of the land.[12] Israel has further moved to illustrate its hegemonic prowess in other ways, and has often falsely depicted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “conflict between two equal sides with irreconcilable claims to one piece of land.”[13] Moreover, Israel has often disregarded international law and has continued its occupation through military-like rule, often denying Palestinian citizens basic democratic rights within civil, economic, and political forums.[14] In fact, Israel’s adoption of a liberal democracy has been rather ironic, as “[M]ajority rule in a plural society results in majority hegemony and minority suppression rather than democracy . . . .” proving their democracy is no democracy at all.[15]

Multiple groups have spoken out in protest against the unfair, military-like regime that Israel has imposed upon Palestinian citizens, often citing the up rise in violence as a direct response by agitated Palestinian citizens against the oppressive Israeli Defense Forces that are afflicting damage on their homes and families. While Israel holds a strong alliance with the United States (an alliance further strengthened under the new Trump administration), Palestine holds no such alliance. With Trump’s leadership, Israeli Defense Forces have benefitted from additional funds and aid from American taxpayer’s money, and have intensified their settler takeover efforts within Palestinian lands, an act that has the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia issuing reports determining that the Israeli occupation has become nothing short of “the crime of apartheid.”[16] Hamas, an infamous vigilante group led by frustrated Palestinian nationals, has attempted to navigate the difficult relationship it carries with Israel by embarking on a new reconciliation process, only to meet rejection by Israeli government officials.[17] Since then, Israel has continued to occupy East Jerusalem, and has obtained official international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital, an act that effectively circumvents the rule of law when it comes to politics on the international stage by formally pronouncing that Israel is its own nation-state, while denying Palestine the same courtesy.[18] While this act may not seem perilous in the status quo, its future implications could mean an endless war between Palestine and Israel as they continue to fight to find a two-state solution that could work.

Currently, Israel has imposed several decade-long restrictions and taken punitive measures against Palestinian citizens that have many officials calling against Israel for the humanitarian crisis it has inflicted on destitute Palestinians.[19] From cutting off electricity to bombing hospitals and schools, Gaza has now been rendered “unlivable” by the United Nations. Further, Israel has been denounced by multiple human rights campaigns as its forces continue to cut off basic human necessities to Palestinian citizens and repeatedly use unethical live ammunition against citizens approaching the Gaza border.[20] Palestinian citizens are subject to collective punishment efforts by Israeli Defense Forces and consistent, oppressive searches and segregation within their own villages.[21] In fact, Israel’s human rights violations can be succinctly divided into five categories: “[U]nlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements. . . .”[22] The aforementioned unlawful killings included the killing of over 2,000 innocent Palestinian civilians; often, these deaths are attributable to the excessive force that Israeli Defense Forces use against Palestinian demonstrators along the West Bank border.[23] Despite the outcry for a cease-fire and for an official two-state solution, Israeli government officials (formally led by infamous right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) have chosen to deny the call for a more humanitarian and peaceful approach to the regional conflict.[24] When it becomes evident to human rights organizations, the UN, and several national leaders that Israeli officials are refusing to comply with the outcry for peace, the most imminent question to ask oneself is: what must be done next? And in an ironic twist, one wonders: truly just how dissimilar is the nationalist movement of Zionism in Palestine in comparison to the anti-Semitic sentiments displayed by Nazis in the 1940s?

The answers to these questions does not come easily; surely, whichever response prompts even the slightest deviation of Israel’s power will result in either direct refusal by its officials, or a potential increase in its hegemonic powers to defy the suggested course of action. Empirically, there has yet to be a recommended two-state solution that would be accepted by both sides. Each side is hesitant to lose the battle for the land it holds dear to its heart; however, at this point, it is evident that both sides have lost the war.

 

[1] Zack Beauchamp, Everything you need to know about Israel-Palestine, VOX (May 14, 2018, 10:20 AM), https://www.vox.com/cards/israel-palestine/intro.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Evan Goldsmith, Comment, Could Commercial Arbitration Help Settle a Historic Conflict between the Israelites and Palestinians, 6 Y.B. On Arb. & Mediation 404, 404-416 (2014) (discussing solutions to Palestine-Israel conflict).

[5] Id.

[6Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Naomi Chazan, Oslo, Then and Now, 23 Palestine-Isr. J. Pol. Econ. & Culture 8, 1-6 (2018)

[9] Id.

[10] OFFICE OF HIST. & BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, THE OSLO ACCORDS AND THE ARAB-ISRAELI PEACE PROCESS (2000).

[11] Evan Goldsmith, Comment, Could Commercial Arbitration Help Settle a Historic Conflict between the Israelites and Palestinians, 6 Y.B. On Arb. & Mediation 405, 404-416 (2014) (discussing rise in conflict between Palestine and Israel).

[12] Id.

[13] What is the Struggle between Israel and the Palestinians About?, JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE (last visited Oct. 10, 2018), https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/israeli-palestinian-conflict-101/.

[14] Id.

[15] Roger I. Zakheim, Comment, Israel in the Human Rights Era: Finding a Moral Justification for the Jewish State, 36 N.Y.U. J. Int’l L. & Pol. 1005, 1005-1012 (2004)

[16] Amnesty International: Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories 2017/2018 (2018), https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/ 

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Human Rights Watch: Israel: 50 Years of Occupation Abuses (2017), https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/04/israel-50-years-occupation-abuses.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Amnesty International: Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories 2017/2018 (2018), https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/.