Presidential-hopeful and general-popularizer of bigotry Donald Trump was at it again Friday. Promoting torture and the violation of human rights was on the agenda, as per usual, he again claimed that waterboarding was only “minimal, minimal, minimal torture,” and not nearly enough for use against suspected terrorists.
But then the rally somehow managed to become even more vitriolic and disgusting than usual. Pulling from a widely-debunked viral chain-email, Trump recounted the story of General John Pershing supposedly executing 49 Muslim prisoners with bullets dipped in pig’s blood and telling a 50th to run back to his people and issue a warning.
To which the only appropriate response is: What?
But instead of being disgusted at this obviously implicit call to shoot Muslims with pig’s blood-soaked bullets (also, again with the obsession with pig’s blood? Really, racists? When are you going to realize it does nothing extra and is just a poor financial investment on your part?), Trump supporters at the rally broke into raucous applause.
Let’s be clear about one thing: This is not new.
Further, this kind of blatant hate speech is not just a Donald Trump or even a presidential candidate problem (although fellow candidate Senator Marco Rubio should get props this time for slamming Trump’s comment as “bizarre,” he’s also guilty of inexcusable Islamophobic rhetoric, as are several other candidates). Scarier than his words themselves perhaps are the euphoric reactions his implausibly ever-growing mass of followers have in response to such blatant bigotry.
Seeing the blind reverence they have for such extremism and fanatical speech, it’s no wonder anti-Muslim violence is on the rise and that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the U.S. has grown by 42 percent in the past year.
Then again, nor is this is just an American society problem: It’s also an “us” problem.
This country was built on the backs of slaves — so many of whom were our own brothers and sisters in Islam — and even into today our talents and our bodies and our work continue to be tokenized and exploited in efforts to “make American great again.” Can we just pause for a moment and ask ourselves how this is possible?
Muslims make up one percent of the American population. We are members of every profession, from grocery store cashiers to neurosurgeons. If we can aspire to be so much in our careers and in our families and marriages, why can we not also aspire to be more in our own defense?
It is time we stop worrying why our fellow Americans don’t appreciate us, why it’s so hard for us to “assimilate” into mainstream American culture, and looking for a love from a nation that very clearly does not love us back by jumping to condemn atrocities that happen thousands of miles away.
It is time we recognize that there are mass atrocities of rhetoric happening right here in our America, and that it is not just our American duty, but our Islamic duty, to speak up. We must recognize that in our selective silence for fear of alienation, we have forgotten that we are already alienated.
This. Doesn’t. Make. Sense. And enough is enough.
Is this a call to arms? Absolutely not. We are peaceful people, yes — we’ve all played apologist at least once in our lives and thus heard and said it a thousand times. But the fact of the matter is that just sitting quietly while politicians call for torturing members of our community isn’t exactly peaceful, either.
As Linda Sarsour says, bullets — pig blood-soaked and otherwise — are not the only form of violence. Silence is equally violent, if not more so, for the effects it has in the long-run. After all, history always repeats itself, and the worst parts of history are no exception.
We saw the way Japanese Americans were interned during World War II and bluster on about “never again,” but unless we begin speaking up on our own behalf and calling out demagogues — whether they’re our own leaders or not — we will no doubt find ourselves in a place where we will be longing for the days when one of our biggest worries was bacon being placed on our masjid doors.
As Dalia Mogahed points out, “No one has attained equality or even improved their condition by appeasing bigotry, coddling ignorance or accommodating racism. It is only by challenging it. Calling it out. Forcing the oppressor to look deep into a mirror, not by giving the oppressed a facelift.”
As much as you might want to slap Donald Trump Bollywood-style, defending the ummah doesn’t involve physically attacking someone. Instead, we must stop waiting on only our national organizations to condemn such statements, and recognize the enormous power we have as an electorate.
Our votes, our voices, our demonstrations, our marches, our political donations, are our challenge. It’s on us to make sure the next generation of Muslims can practice their faith free of fear of both prosecution and persecution, just as members of any other religion should be. We’re not so “fresh off the boat” that we have to fear rocking the boat — at this point, we should fear doing anything but.
Written By Sumaia Masoom
Image: Screengrab from CNN Youtube