Trump's Anti-Muslim Sentiment Is Symptomatic of a Deeper Malaise

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

In a campaign press release yesterday Donald Trump stated the following: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population." Furthermore: "Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again." A reporter from CNN that interviewed Trump followers at a campaign rally could not find a single person that disagreed with him.

Apart from prescribing that roughly 22 percent of the world's population be barred from entering the United States this is a dissolute proclamation of bigotry that declares all Muslims guilty until proven innocent. That Trump is currently favored as Presidential nominee by 33 percent of Republican voters and the fact that his ratings increase every time he issues an anti-Muslim statement (this is not his first-he has previously called for Muslims to be issued special identity cards stating their faith) make this garbage particularly baneful.

While the statements of Trump and Ben Carson have received widespread coverage due to their being candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination, they are only symptoms of a deeper malaise. Since the attacks on September 11, 2001 there has been a relentless and carefully crafted campaign in several quarters of social and mainstream media to demonize both Islam and Muslims. The current wave of hatred is neither an overnight occurrence nor the mere consequence of recent terrorist attacks--it is the culmination of years of propaganda and deliberate fabrication.

Most prominent in this writing of the anti-Muslim narrative has been the gargantuan hydra of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. From Fox News to British Tabloids like the "Mirror" and the "Daily Mail" a ceaseless flow of agitprop designed to portray Islam as not just dangerous but uniquely dangerous has flooded the Western world. This improvident hyperbole that has recently focused on the "threat" posed by refugees and western Muslims has been the chief forte of this section of the media and the key in its scavenger hunt for ratings.

The next most significant Jedis in the Islamophobic legion have been those who have made careers out of this enterprise of hate. These include Robert Spencer who founded the "Jihadwatch" website (a treasure trove of misinformation on Islam), Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, Andrew Breitbart and Walid Shoebat. These people have been blogging about Islam and Muslims for over ten years, often collaborate and have identical narratives about Islam and Muslims.

The dangerous misrepresentations of Islam that they have engineered are utilized by a large number of journalists and bloggers and they are often quoted as reliable sources on Islam. They tirelessly collect execution and other propaganda videos released by terrorist organizations and circulate them widely on social media-in effect becoming their publicists.

Lastly, perhaps the most deceptive style of anti-Muslim animus has come from popular anti-theists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They have accompanied each anti-Muslim tirade with an intellectually dishonest disclaimer--that they criticize and condemn ideologies, not people.

The problem is, when Sam Harris states that: "It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence", Or: "The only future devout Muslims can envisage -- as Muslims -- is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed," he has crossed the line from the criticism of ideas to moral generalization. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali declares that "We are at war against Islam" and advocates shutting down all Muslim schools in the West she is no longer criticizing ideas, she is advocating war and discriminatory actions. When Bill Maher declares that "A lot of mainstream Muslims share ideas with terrorists," he is not engaging in an intellectual critique of ideas; he is making a facile accusation of guilt by association.

In addition to this, all of the aforementioned anti-Muslim elements have viciously labeled those who call them out "regressive leftists," "regressive liberals," "apologists for radicals" and "terrorist sympathizers." Utilizing an intellectual sleight of hand they have accused their critics of silencing them and stifling the "necessary" debate about Islam when it is their own propaganda that dominates the airwaves incessantly.

In a country founded on the principle of religious freedom, there is an ongoing attempt to demonize a community on the basis of its faith. What terrorists have been trying to do since September 11, 2001 the Islamophobic enterprise is doing for them--creating an apocalyptic vision of civilizations clashing, a narrative of forced binaries where Islam stands in absolute polarity to the rest of the world. There is much to lose if the protagonists of this shameful saga of bigotry succeed.

Terrorism cannot be defeated if Muslims are shamed and alienated. When fear and hatred hold sway over the body politic the worst sort of demagogue can ascend to the throne. Fascism rose from the trauma of the monstrous nationalist conflicts of World War I and the umbrage stemming from the treaty of Versailles. Today politicians throughout Europe and America are trying a familiar malevolent alchemy-transmuting fear and hatred into fascist politics.
They must not succeed.