In his latest round of xenophobic fear-mongering ignorance, Donald Trump announced yesterday his plans to “monitor and close mosques” and institute “unprecedented surveillance” of American Muslims, which he said might include registering Muslims in a special database and issuing them special ID cards noting their religion. With its echoes of genocidal policies in Nazi Germany and Hutu Power Rwanda, not to mention the religious ID programs that have caused tremendous sectarian strife in countries like Iraq and Lebanon today, the proposal has understandably aroused considerable condemnation.
Today, however, we saw the best response yet to Trump’s bombastic racism, as Sergeant Tayyib Rashid, an American Muslim veteran of the Marine Corps, posted a picture of his military ID on Twitter with the caption: “I’m an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where’s yours?”
— ProudAmericanMuslim (@MuslimMarine) November 19, 2015
Rashid was commenting on the fact that Mr. Trump, like so many of his other war-mongering colleagues in the Republican Party, turned out to be a coward when the duty to fight actually came. A pampered and entitled young Trump has his Vietnam draft deferred four times because he was in college, and upon his graduation dodged the draft by managing to get himself declared medically unfit – despite having no known medical issues.
By posting his military ID, Rashid was making a powerful statement in the voice of all American Muslims, telling Trump and other bigots like him that they are an integral part of the American nation, and just as dedicated to its values as all other Americans. One of the more concerning aspects of Trump’s recent comments was the insidious implication that American Muslims is an oxymoron, that Muslims can never be a part of the American nation and are instead an alien fifth column. Trump repeatedly referred to Muslims in general as “the enemy,” not only dehumanizing them but also establishing a xenophobic us-versus-them mentality in which Muslims, regardless of their devotion to America, are the hated “other” that racists the world over dehumanize to gain support. Rashid’s post was not only a denunciation of Trump’s war-mongering hypocrisy but also a forceful renunciation of this dangerous way of thinking, asserting that to be a Muslim and to be an American are far from mutually exclusive.
The onslaught of racist xenophobic fear-mongering with an apparent total willed ignorance on the part of many Republicans in the wake of the tragic attacks in Paris has been frightening to all those who believe in the principles of America. As Republican governors refuse to shelter Syrians fleeing for their lives, Ben Carson compares the refugees to rabid dogs, and several Republicans propose rounding them up in internment camps, freedom-loving Americans have to be terrified at how easily Republicans forget the lessons of the past in their racist rush to find scapegoats that arouse the dark populism of the population a la Hitler and Mussolini. Rashid’s response, however, along with those of many other intelligent Americans both Muslim and non-Muslim, helps to restore some faith in the decency of humanity.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.