Donald Trump doubles down on his xenophobic message about Muslims and the people crossing the US's southern border in droves. His recent TV commercial is not ambiguous about where he stands on some very divisive issues. As the contest for the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls heats up, others join the fray in exploiting these sensitive topics. Terrorism, Islamic or otherwise, is a serious problem and many people have real concerns about preventing it. It is also a very complicated issue spanning the globe. Consequently, response to terrorism should have a high priority in our political discourse. But how we address it is just as important if we have any hope of diminishing it.
We need to respond to terrorism with cool heads and not by playing to the emotions of the common person. We as human beings have the tendency to simplify hard issues and come up with commensurately simple solutions which only exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, demagogic politicians find it convenient to play on raw emotions for short term political game at the expense of the long term well-being of the country.
I just came back from a trip to Germany and France, which saw horrific attacks by ISIS terrorists and/or sympathizers. Visiting the sites of this carnage in Paris sends shivers down one's spine and the first reaction might be to go and kill every Muslim in sight. While there is little doubt that life has changed in France for all (including the nearly five million French Muslims), the political response was encouraging. During these trying times France held regional elections. The French far right party Front National's demagogic leader, Marine Le Pen, successfully exploited the situation albeit temporarily. Front National won 30% of the vote in the first round of elections, a wake-up call for the French.
The French voters, realizing a watershed moment, decided that they would not succumb to the simple xenophobic temptations offered by Front National and reward them at the expense of what France stands for. On the second decisive round Front National was dealt a severe blow. The majority of French voters denied them even a single region. This is not the end of Front National by any means, but it was a very important message during a very difficult and emotional time in French history.
Two ISIS sympathizers calling themselves devout Muslims carried out one the most terrible acts of terrorism in San Bernardino, California. In cold blood they killed 14 innocent people enjoying a party. This is a horrific act perpetrated by a Muslim husband and wife whose religion was Islam. I do not know their motivation, but anyone who is prepared to take another human being's life must have something seriously wrong with their thought process. This type of sickness is not unique to one group as we have witnessed recent massacres in places like Charleston, South Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In response to the San Bernardino massacres, hate crimes against American Muslims have gone up considerably according to a civil rights organization tracking these crimes, the Anti-Defamation League. Surely the recent xenophobic exhortations by the likes of Donald Trump have helped embolden these hate groups.
Muslims do commit murder and other crimes just like killers and criminals of other religious persuasions. But we should not indict a whole group because some from their ranks are capable of carrying out unspeakable acts of violence. American Muslims are law abiding good citizens, educated and successfully living the Americans dream. We should try to prevent Islamic terrorism and other acts of violence and go after these people with the full force of law. But the time has long past to collectively label and demonize groups of people. We have been through this chapter in the past, accusing Japanese Americans, German Americans and others of being un-American. We later realized our mistake, but many lives were ruined. Some in this country call the French appeasers. France is using new state of emergency rules to combat Islamic terrorism, but at the same time they rebuffed xenophobic politicians. Perhaps the US demagogues can learn a thing or two from "French appeasers."
We all aim to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups affiliated with it. But let's not play into their hands by branding all Muslim as suspects. It is the aim of ISIS to create a rift between the US and its loyal Muslim population and to exploit the situation for recruitment and other evil desires.