I never thought it would come to this. Actually, how did it come to this?
I am about to start one of my blog posts with a quote from Donald Trump. Worse, I am about to agree with a sentence from the load of garbage that comes out of his mouth every day. I used to dismiss the guy’s significance at the beginning of his campaign. I thought the glorious country I call a second home was wise enough to brush him aside. Trump’s rise in the polls still wasn’t enough for me to take him seriously. But then he started talking about us desert people. So I started listening.
One of Donald’s latest feats of genius on all things Middle Eastern was delivered March 9th 2016 in an interview with Anderson Cooper:
“I think Islam hates us. There’s something there […] tremendous hatred… tremendous hatred… We have to get to the bottom of it…”
The following day, all hell broke loose.
Liberal commentator Joe Scarborough took aim at Donald Trump’s comment, standing up for American Muslims as an integral part of American society:
“Saying that Islam hates us […] has to be very stinging to the Muslim Americans that wake up every morning and go to work and pursue the American dream and tell their children that in this country, unlike the countries that they came from – where there was severe repression – anything’s possible.”
Aside from Trump’s ideological opponents, the self-appointed representatives of America’s Muslims took on the case. The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) demanded nothing less than a public apology from the Republican front-runner. “The remarks from Trump do not sit well with many of the nearly 3.3 million Muslims living in America,” said CAIR’s statement.
But then this was no surprise.
Already in late 2015, Trump’s call for an American ban on all Muslims sent chills down many spines. The reactions across the ideological spectrum were as virulent. But none of them dazzled me more than Michael Moore’s. The filmmaker went all the way to the Trump tower with the following words, sparking the trendy #weareallmuslim hashtag.
(No Moore, you’re not Muslim. Also, you know who else wants you all to be Muslim? I’ll let you guess.)
Look, I understand. It’s election season in United States. Therefore anything is framed through the lens of America’s culture wars. It’s pro-choice Vs. pro-life. Gun control Vs. 2nd Amendment. Big government Vs. small government. Market regulation Vs laissez faire. Diversity Vs Xenophobia… To a non-American like myself, such ideological bipolarity is puzzling. It almost feels like whatever liberals say, Republicans just need to say the opposite – and vice versa.
But when something as contentious and complicated as Islam is discussed, being simplistic is not an option. Not at the time of the Arab Spring and ISIS. Not when Jihadi attacks take on a quasi-daily frequency around the world. No matter how well they mean, America’s liberal commentators need to sometimes get out of their American bubble and look at the world as it is. Even when it is Trump they’re trying to take down.
The debate about Islam’s perceptions of non-Muslims cannot be restricted to the place American Muslims occupy in the United States. If anything, the rights and privileges they enjoy in this country are not a function of their Muslimhood, but of the fact that they live in a secular society where freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed. The same constitutional guarantees allow American Muslims to be Sunni or Shia, wear whatever they want, pray or not, fast or not and still call themselves Muslim. American Muslims can live the American dream precisely because their country is not governed by Islam. Or Christianity. Or Judaism. Or any other religion.
Let me put this another way. American Muslims thrive in the United States because they are free enough to dismiss the violent and harmful aspects of their religion. Hatred of other forms of thought and belief is one of those.
Yes, liberal America. Unlike his previous business ventures, Donald Trump was right on the money when he said that Islam hated non-Muslims. Of course not all Muslims hate non-Muslims, but that is beside the point. Did Trump know what he was talking about when he answered Anderson Cooper? Probably not. That too, I’m afraid, is beside the point. Here’s something else that’s beside the point: other religions have the same problem.
In its fundamental founding documents, the religion of Islam is rife with enticements of hatred towards Christians, Jews and other “Infidels,” culminating in explicit calls of war. Such verses are held as sacred by millions of Muslims across the world. In 2016, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Shabab and the Saudi regime still reference these precepts to justify their savagery.
(I know, I sound like a broken record. I have a record of being broken by the traumas of Islamic education.)
Some of us found out the hard way. On September 12th 2001, I walked into Arabic class like a normal teenager. But then I was not a normal teenager, for my Arabic professor was already planting the seeds of hatred in my juvenile mind. According to him, America deserved what had happened to it because of its support to the Israel. Thirteen year-olds across the classroom nodded, taking such a hateful worldview for granted. Wasn’t fighting the Infidels exactly what Allah told us to do anyway? I also still have vivid memories of Bin Laden posters at local markets. The man was a rock star of sorts. Until Al Qaeda hit Morocco in 2003, so the posters were taken down.
Let’s just say yours truly is glad he also grew up with Internet, videogames and satellite television.
Now, I love America. It has given me knowledge, opportunity and freedom, three things my region of origin is still failing to provide youth with. Needless to say, bans on Muslims or patrols in Muslim neighborhoods are not worthy of such a great country. But it is also because I care that I feel the need to scold liberal pundits when they go astray. Not everything is about what the United States or the West did or might do wrong, and other cultures do have their share of evil. Islam has its share of evil. When you deny that or discard its significance as a Western commentator, you’re bordering on ethnocentrism.
I mean, think about it. Surely Trump was not the first one to have come up with the ridiculous idea of separating Muslims from non-Muslims. Right, Saudi Arabia?