April 19, 2019 | 73° F

Trump’s dangerous language fosters intolerance, distrust

Opinion Column: Midweek Crisis

“I love the Muslims,” said Donald Trump on CNN in September. It almost broke my heart, then, when I read on Monday night that Trump is now calling for a “total and complete shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States.”

In the latest public statement of another one of his disgustingly ignorant and uninformed opinions, Trump proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. This follows his escalating demonization of Muslims, including claims that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating after 9/11 in Jersey City, and his suggestion just a few weeks ago to create a national registry of Muslims in America. Hitler comparisons aside, we need to address Trump seriously.

While this latest declaration is just another part of Trump’s steady stream of racist rhetoric (now being roundly condemned by everyone, from J.K. Rowling to Dick Cheney), we cannot afford to continue treating Trump like an extreme right-wing anomaly that will disappear once he loses his presidential campaign. Despite his multiple controversies and his awful platform that is built on disturbingly xenophobic and white supremacist ideas, Trump continues to lead in the polls, coming out at 33 percent this week in Iowa, ahead of every other Republican candidate. One can never underestimate the power of the manipulation of public hysteria in the interest of “national security,” which according to Trump, apparently means the protection of white Americans from refugees, immigrants, Muslims and African-Americans. It’s a little difficult to be surprised that Trump went as far as to call for a ban on Muslims entering the country — especially as it’s not too far off domestic policy in the past.

In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the forced relocation and internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II in Korematsu v. United States. While that decision is now widely considered one of the worst blunders in the court’s history, it was never overturned. In today’s increasingly dangerous climate of intolerance and distrust toward immigrants, religious groups and racial and ethnic minorities, it is alarming to say the least that this framework — not just a stain on our history, but also technically a part of legal precedent — still even exists.

After all, what would happen if we ever found ourselves in another situation of the mass detention of American citizens?

If only that scenario was as hard to imagine as we might hope it would be. It’s easy for anyone to insist that they would never stand for such an injustice, that something as dramatic as the internment of U.S. citizens could never happen again, and that Trump should be ignored because he “obviously” doesn’t reflect the opinions of the majority of Americans. It seems to have been conveniently forgotten that the U.S. counter-terrorism approach is built on policies that specifically target Muslims and other people of Arab and South Asian descent. What exactly did we think that more than a decade of unchecked government action against American-Muslim communities was going to build up to?

After 9/11, then-former President George W. Bush made it clear in his public addresses that the United States was not at war with Muslims: “Our war is against evil, not Islam.” It was the responsible thing to do as president, when American Muslims (and those who “looked” Muslim, including many members of the Sikh community) were most vulnerable to hate crimes and retaliation. But for all of the politically correct assurances that the U.S. would not give into a divisive policy of racial and religious profiling, the Bush Administration created policies that resulted in the arbitrary and illegal detention of hundreds of Muslims, the deportation of thousands of Muslim immigrants without charges and the mass surveillance of thousands more. The only difference with Trump’s approach to this situation (in addition to the fact that he is an unexplainably disgusting racist) is that he’s not mincing words. 

The U.S. has a track record of illegal action against its own citizens that certainly is not limited to its criminalization of Jewish, German, black and Muslim-Americans throughout its history. According to the New York Times, Trump actually cited Roosevelt’s classification of Japanese-Americans as “enemy aliens” during World War II as precedent — and it doesn’t help that we do have a Supreme Court case upholding that precedent to this day. Trump’s blatantly fascist rhetoric is only now being met with unequivocal condemnation from the left and right, as if we have not been allowing this stage to be set for decades. Trump is an exaggerated caricature of the very real policies of discrimination and racism that we’ve been allowing all along. We might not take Trump seriously, but there is more than enough reason even without his outrageously racist publicity stunts to acknowledge the broken state of our utterly divided country.                                                                   

Sabah Abbasi is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and public health with a minor in Arabic. Her column, “Midweek Crisis,” runs on alternate Wednesdays. She is the former Opinions Editor of The Daily Targum.

Sabah Abbasi

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