On Sunday evening in Quebec, a 27-year-old white French-Canadian man who had reportedly expressed anti-immigrant views and support for Donald Trump online walked into a mosque with one alleged purpose: to kill Muslims. While Muslims were in their house of worship praying, he opened fire. Instantly families scrambled to shield their loved ones from this terrorist’s deadly mission. By the time it was over, six were murdered and countless others were wounded simply for “practicing their faith,” as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted.
Trump, while reportedly offering condolences to Trudeau, didn’t respond by publicly warning about the threat of white supremacists plotting violence against Muslims or other people of color. But on Friday morning when a machete-wielding man in Paris allegedly attacked soldiers while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” Trump immediately took to Twitter to bring attention to “radical Islamic terrorism”:
Details ― including the identity and motive of the suspect ― were not immediately clear at the time of his tweet. So why did Trump instantly take to Twitter and in effect do a victory lap over a possible terror attack by a Muslim but not warn about terror threats posed by white supremacists even days later? Simple: Muslims committing terrorist attacks is the narrative Trump needs to garner support for his “Muslim ban.” However, Muslims being killed by right-wing actors like we saw in Quebec ― and which Canada deemed terrorism ― hurts his case.
While Trump refuses to acknowledge the threat of white supremacists in America, we must in order to keep people of color safe. Let me be blunt: attacks like Quebec could very likely happen in the United States in the near future given the recent plots by white supremacists to kill Muslim Americans. While I would imagine many Americans have not heard about these terror plots since our media barely covers them, it’s fair to assume that the president of the United States and his team are aware of them. Here are just a few.
“Many Americans have not heard about these terror plots [against Muslims] since our media barely covers them, but it’s fair to assume that the president of the United States and his team are aware of them.”
In October, three men allegedly part of a domestic terrorist group called “The Crusaders,” were arrested for reportedly plotting to kill Somali Muslim immigrants living in an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas. The three spoke of dipping their bullets in pig’s blood before shooting the Muslims ― echoing Trump’s campaign speech that General Pershing had done the same. (Pershing did not.)
In December, white supremacist Glendon Scott Crawford was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Why? Well he intended to use a radioactive weapon of mass destruction to kill Muslim Americans in upstate New York.
Then there’s Robert Doggart of Tennessee, a self-described Christian minister, whose trial begins later this month. Doggart’s plot allegedly included using explosives and machetes to kill Muslim Americans simply because of their faith.
And recently, there have been numerous other incidents intended to terrorize Muslim Americans. For example, an alleged Trump fan was arrested in September and charged with a hate crime for setting fire to a mosque in Florida. And over the weekend, only a day after Trump’s announcement of a “Muslim ban,” a mosque in Texas was burned to the ground. That was the second mosque set on fire in Texas in the last few weeks. And the list goes on and on.
But Trump is silent about all of this. Does Trump not discuss it because it would upset his base? Or worse, does Trump simply believe that Muslim lives don’t matter? Unclear, but both are fair questions given what we have seen from Trump. And with each crime gone unspoken, it seems more and more likely that the latter is true.
Trump, who despicably stated during his campaign that “Islam hates us,” knows very well that Muslim-bashing plays well with the GOP base. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that over 65 percent of Republican primary voters supported Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims who are not U.S. citizens coming into the United States. Today, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, most Trump supporters approve of the measure.
And while Muslims are by the far the number one victims of the so-called Islamic State, we hear little concern from Trump for Muslims suffering their wrath. Instead, on Friday Trump announced he would give priority to Christian refugees in Syria over Muslims who want to come to America. (Thankfully, numerous Christian leaders have denounced Trump’s call to prioritize refugee admissions based on religion.)
It truly seems Trump is trying to create a religious sectarian divide in this country. That’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous. It will incite violence against Muslim Americans. Period.
And despite these hate crimes and terrorist plots to kill Muslim Americans (and others) by right-wing extremists, Trump is now reportedly on the verge of altering a federal program that sought to counter the threats of all forms of extremism ― including white supremacism ― to have it solely focus on Islamic extremists. The dangerous problem with this is twofold: first it furthers the wildly incorrect notion that only Muslims are terrorists. And second it could make it easier for white supremacists to organize, plot and possibly carry out terror attacks against people of color, Muslims or even Jews.
“It truly seems Trump is trying to create a religious sectarian divide in this country. That’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous.”
The last time I was this concerned was in February 2015. I was invited to a meeting at the White House with then-President Barack Obama along with 10 other Muslim American activists. At that meeting I expressed my fears about Republican politicians irresponsibly ginning up hate of Muslims. For example, a GOP Oklahoma state representative had called Islam a “cancer” that should be “cut out” of America. And at the time GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal was falsely claiming that Muslims in America want to impose “no-go” zones and Sharia law.
As I explained to Obama, these politicians’ hateful words were contributing to a toxic environment that could radicalize a person to attack Muslims. The president sincerely expressed his concern for our situation.
But sadly, not long after, a man who reportedly hated all religions, shot and killed three young Muslim Americans near the campus of the University of North Carolina, by putting his gun to their heads. This was an execution of three beautiful young people by a man who hated them simply for their faith.
While it’s impossible to say if the hateful words of GOP politicians played a role in that attack, I can say with certainty that the anti-Muslim climate we live in today is actually worse than February 2015. Then we had lesser-known Republican politicians fear-mongering around Islam. Today, we have the president of the United States doing just that.
If Trump truly wants to be the “president for all Americans,” then he must vocally address all significant posed threats to Americans from ISIS to white supremacists. After all, it wasn’t ISIS who executed nine African Americans in a Charleston, S.C. church in 2015, but rather white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof. And the longer Trump waits to address the threat of white supremacist terror, the more likely we will turn on the TV and see that white supremacists have killed even more innocent Americans.
This piece was updated to include Friday’s attack in Paris.