Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Fri, Oct 7th, 2016

Trump, Pence and Islamophobia

If there is one day that lives in infamy for any American who was alive during World War II, it is December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Almost three quarters of a century later, on the same day, Republican candidate Donald Trump issued a call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Although he seems to have softened this position, after extensive condemnation by fellow Republicans (including his current vice-presidential running mate, Governor Mike Pence), this statement is still on his official website for anyone to see.

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In the recent vice-presidential debate, Pence adamantly refused to acknowledge any of the outrageous and inflammatory comments that Trump has made over his foot-in-mouth media blitzkrieg throughout the campaign. It is clear that Pence’s desire to get into the White House to stop all abortions and prevent immigration from the Middle East justifies his outright lying and ludicrous claim that the Clinton campaign is the one hurling insults. He noted during the debate that he often gets down on his knees everyday; I hope his prayers include asking for forgiveness for breaking one of the ten commandments every time he defends Trump and for forgetting just about everything Jesus said in the Gospels.

Imagine the implications of the Trump call for a “total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States.”  First of all, such a plan goes against the constitution and the very reason there is a Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbor. Second, Islam is not a country, nor is the religious faith of a billion and a half individuals, as well as several million in the United States, at war with the United States. The U.S. has had “terrorism” from the very start, but the vast number of killings and acts that can be deemed terrorism in the United States are not done by Muslims. Blaming “Muslims” for a few well-publicized acts by individuals acting on their own has led rightwing media to spread a blanket fear of Muslims. Last April an Iraqi refugee, who had lived under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein before he came to the United States in 2010, was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after a fellow passenger heard him say “inshallah” (God willing, a very common phrase even used by Christian Arabs) on his mobile phone.

As disturbing as this Islamophobic ban is, it is based on the totally spurious argument that at least half of Muslims in the United States want to enforce shariah law. The poll cited is from a rightwing Islamophobic group called “The Center for Security Policy.” The president of this center is Frank J. Gaffney, Jr, who has been exposed as one of the leading Islamophobes in America. The poll is so dubious that no serious news media would refer to it. It is also quite clear that the constitution of the United States does not condone religious law. As was pointed out in an article in the Christian Science Monitor: “Passing a Constitutional amendment banning sharia in the US would be akin to banning Americans from riding unicorns.” Nor has Pew Research, which is respectable, suggested that large segments of the Muslim population have “great hatred towards Americans.” For what the Pew Foundation did say about Muslims in America, check out their website. Indeed, Muslim Americans are Americans, not a people apart from the melting pot.

Trump’s statement not only cites a blatantly biased poll, but shows no understanding of what “shariah” law is. The term refers to a conceptual basis of how Muslims are directed to live derived from the Quran and the “sunna” (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad). The actual application of law in Islam is called “fiqh” and there is no one source for this. Like Canon Law in Christianity, there is a long history of the legal traditions in Islamic contexts, but no contemporary nation, not even Iran, bases its legal system solely on the shariah. Some ultra-conservative Islamic states, like Saudi Arabia, do indeed have draconian practices such as beheading and flogging, both of which were quite common in European history. But such acts could never be applied in non-Islamic nations; nor would the vast majority of Muslims living in the West agree with such ultra-conservative thinking.

As for figuring out “what is going on,” there is hardly any mystery. The United States and its allies have interfered in the Middle East for decades, toppling some regimes and buying the loyalty of the worst kind of dictators. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left thousands dead and created an insecurity where internal terrorism is now a daily occurrence. By providing billions of dollars worth of military hardware and weapons to regimes like Saudi Arabia (which has bombed Yemen into a humanitarian disaster) and so-called “moderate Muslim” rebels in Syria, the Middle East is in political turmoil. Several million refugees have left their homes in the region with multiple thousands dead and wounded. To assume that every Muslim seeking to

become a U.S. citizen or to study in the U.S. is a terrorist is hardly different from the most blatant form of anti-Semitism. The fact that the Trump campaign website still brandishes such red meat to its basket of deplorable (and yes, racists like David Duke are to be deplored) says it all.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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