Following this weekend’s horrifying massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump reacted in the most appalling way he possibly could have. First, he congratulated himself for being “right” about an impending terror attack – and then promptly launched a reprehensible fear-mongering rant about American Muslims that would have made Joseph Goebbels proud.
Accusing them of harboring “terrorists” and conspiring against the American people from within, Trump doubled down on his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States and threatened collective punishment against the members of the three million American Muslims in reprisal for the Orlando massacre, which was perpetrated by an American citizen. In several speeches to supporters and any media outlet that would listen, Trump used outrageous lies and ridiculously broad generalizations to demonize an entire population:
“[W]hen people know what’s going on and they don’t tell us, and we have an attack, and people die, these people have to have consequences. Big consequences. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction. They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. They know it. And they have to do it, and they have to do it forthwith.”
Ignoring for a moment the absurd implication that all 3.3 American Muslims are part of some kind of shadowy network that is in constant communication (possibly on secret Islamophones?) and constantly aware of each other’s ideas and plans, all the evidence indicates that Donald Trump is, once again, fabricating dangerous and divisive lies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation spoke out against Trump’s rabble-rousing, asserting that in fact Muslim-Americans are our biggest asset in the fight against terrorism. FBI Director James Comey said that “they do not want people committing violence, either in their community or in the name of their faith, and so some of our most productive relationships are with people who see things and tell us things who happen to be Muslim. It’s at the heart of the FBI’s effectiveness to have good relationships with these folks.”
What is damaging our efforts to root out homegrown terrorists is our own suspicions and racism. University of North Carolina Professor Charles Kurzman, who led a study on Muslim-Americans and terrorism found that “to claim there is no cooperation is false and defamatory to the Muslim-American community,” but that law enforcement’s own suspicions and discrimination are a major barrier to further cooperation:
“One imam interviewed for the project told researchers he felt that his “trust is not being reciprocated” by U.S. government officials. The imam told the researchers that after he attended a meeting with federal law enforcement officials designed to increase cooperation, he went to the local airport, was held for hours at security and missed his flight, the study said.”
When it comes to domestic terrorism and surveillance, it’s important that we take to heart the message of Deputy LAPD Chief Michael Downing, who mandates that “what we say to communities is that we don’t want you to profile humans, we want you to profile behavior.” The petty microaggressions that American Muslims must face every day – suspicious glances, unnecessary profiling, pat-downs, being pulled off of planes for questioning just for speaking Arabic or for doing math are what is truly holding us back. Trump’s policies of alienation and discrimination against Muslims will only drive them further away from assimilation and right into the hands of extremists – not to mention being a crude rejection of the values of tolerance and cultural pluralism that made our country great in the first place.
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.