Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, September 2017
The seven-million strong American Muslim community, though, remains under siege since 9/11/2001 but their plight has taken a new twist under President Donald Trump whose anti-Muslim policies alarmingly fomented hate crimes against them.
According to July 2017 report of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the number of hate crimes in the first half of 2017 spiked 91 percent compared to the same period in 2016, which was the worst year for such anti-Muslim incidents since the civil rights organization began its current documenting system in 2013. The number of bias incidents in 2017 also increased by 24 percent compared to the first half of 2016.
At the same time, high spike in Islamophobic Incidents was reported at the U.S. borders during President Trump's first 100 days. It was reported in April last that cases of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) profiling of Muslims accounted for 23 percent of CAIR case intakes in the first three months of 2017. This represented a 1,035 percent increase in CBP bias cases reported so far this year over the same period in 2016.
Not surprisingly, a high school band in Washington State has canceled a longstanding field trip to Canada over concerns that some of its students may be barred from re-entering the United States.
According to the Nation, in the age of Trump, ever more Muslim travelers are being questioned about their beliefs as even Muslim-American citizens have been caught in the net of Trump’s travel ban. Alex Kane wrote on March 23: "Beyond the legal concerns, Muslim Americans and civil-liberties advocates are worried that the apparent increase in religious questioning and detention of Muslim travelers is just the opening salvo of a broader Trump-era campaign targeting Muslims. The Trump administration has brought anti-Muslim ideologues into the heart of power, and many Muslim Americans fear the executive order was the first step in a long campaign aimed at making discrimination against them official policy. Of particular concern is the role of Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist and former head of the far-right website Breitbart News, which frequently traffics in anti-Muslim bigotry. News outlets reported that Bannon helped draft Trump’s first executive order, which banned refugees and travelers from seven Muslim countries, and also suggested more vetting of Muslims."
Tellingly, Steve Bannon was sacked by Trump on August 18. He joined Breitbart News as its chief.
Not surprisingly, the UN last month issued a rare warning over 'alarming' racism in US. The UN human rights experts have called on the United States and its leadership to "unequivocally and unconditionally" condemn racist speech and crimes, warning that a failure to do so could fuel further violent incidents. The rare "early warning and urgent action" statement, which is reserved for serious situations, was issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). It stopped short of criticizing US President Donald Trump by name. But CERD said it was "disturbed by the failure at the highest political level" of the US to reject racist demonstrations. That failure could lead to "fuelling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents" in the United States, the statement said. "We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred," Anastasia Crickley, who chairs the UN panel, added.
To borrow Chauncey DeVega of Salon Trump's election has created 'safe spaces' for Racists and White Supremacists. "Since the election of Donald Trump in November, there have been almost 1,000 reported hate crimes targeting Muslims, Arabs, African-Americans, Latinos and other people of color. In this same moment, there have been terrorist threats against Jewish synagogues and community centers as well as the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries. These hate crimes have also resulted in physical harm and even death: An Indian immigrant was shot and killed by a white man in Kansas who reportedly told him, “Get out of my country.” Several days ago a white man shot a Sikh man in Washington state after making a similar comment. When forced by public outrage to comment on the wave of hate crimes spreading across the country, President Trump issued a weak and obligatory statement on the subject during his address to Congress last week," DeVega wrote in March adding:
"As with the administration’s comments about its decision not to mention the Jewish people in the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the president’s feeble condemnation of racism and bigotry did little to satisfy his critics. As demonstrated by his rhetoric and policy proposals, and the behavior of his supporters both during the 2016 campaign and his presidency, it is clear that Donald Trump used white racism and nativism to win the White House."
Nationwide anti-Islam rallies converge supremacist & Islamophobes
On June 11, Far-right activists held anti-Muslim demonstrations in least 28 cities across the United States. The demonstrators, spurred by the ACT for America - one of the largest grass-roots anti-Muslim group - were met in many cases by larger crowds of counter protesters. Clashes reportedly broke out between anti-fascists - known colloquially as Antifa - and march participants in a handful of cities, including Seattle, Washington.
The protests and counter protests came at a time of increased tensions and frequent physical confrontations between Antifa and far-right activists. During a rally and counter protest in New York City, local media reports estimate that around 200 Antifa protests outnumbered several dozen participants of the so-called National March Against Sharia. At least one planned rally was canceled in Portland, Oregon, where two men were fatally stabbed in May while defending two Muslim women from a man who taunted them with racial slurs.
Encouraged by the June 11 demonstrations, the ACT for America, which has been labeled an extremist anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups, announced to hold anti-Muslim and pro-Trump rallies at around 37 locations across the country on Sept. 9. However, the group cancelled the planned rallies apparently because of poor response from the public.
Trump fulfills promise to ban Muslims
On December 7, 2015, Trump's campaign issued a statement saying: “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.” Trump read this statement aloud at a rally in South Carolina.
Fulfilling his election promise, on January 27, 2017, within a week of becoming president, Trump signed an executive order blocking Syrian refugees and banning citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. This went into effect immediately, prompting mass chaos at airports, protests and legal challenges.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, a close adviser to the president, later said on Fox News: “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, 'Muslim ban.' He called me up. He said, 'Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.'”
As the Muslim Ban 1.0 was challenged and blocked in the courts, Trump rolled out Muslim Ban 2.0 on March 6. It was effective as of March 15, 2017. However, District Court judge in Hawaii blocked Trump’s second Muslim ban before it takes effect.
On June 12, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision by the federal judge in Hawaii to block President Donald Trump's executive order known as Muslim Ban 2.0. The three judges ruled unanimously that the president's overhauled travel ban "exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress" under federal immigration law, because the executive order did not contain "a sufficient justification to suspend the entry of more than 180 million people on the basis of nationality."
The Supreme Court on June 25 allowed parts of President Donald Trump's controversial Muslim ban to go into effect. The apex Court ruled that despite rulings in two different federal courts - that the ban should be put on hold while judges decide whether it’s constitutional - the Trump administration should be allowed to enforce the ban starting on Thursday, June 29, 72 hours after the court’s ruling was issued. However, people from the six countries listed in President Trump’s travel ban ― Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen ― can travel to the U.S. if they possess a “bona fide” relationship with the U.S.
In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments by the ACLU and partner organizations challenging the Trump’s Muslim ban.
White House forgoes Eid al-Fitr event
While fulfilling his anti-Muslim election promises, President Donald Trump decided against celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, at the White House this year. This is the first time in two decades that the White House did not commemorate the Islamic holy month of fasting with an Eid al-Fitr dinner.
Thomas Jefferson is recognized as hosting an iftar at the White House in 1805, according to the Washington Post. President Bill Clinton then started the modern-day tradition of hosting a White House iftar in 1996, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama followed suit."To now cancel the iftar with no explanation is to reinforce in the minds of many, not just Muslims, a concern that these proceed from bias and an anti-Islam or Muslim position," said John Esposito, a Georgetown University professor of religion and international affairs and of Islamic studies.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also broke with tradition and declined a request from the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host a reception for the holiday.
Bills introduced in US Congress to designate Muslim Brotherhood s terrorist organization
In an apparent anti-Muslim move, on January 9, U.S. Representative Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), introduced a bill (H.R. 377) to ask the Secretary of State to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. The following day, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced an identical bill (S. 68) in the Senate titled the The Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act. The bill states that the group has met the criteria of a terrorist group, and thus should be designated as such.
Both Senator Cruz and Rep. Diaz Balart introduced similar bills in the 114th Session. The House version was passed by the Judiciary Committee but neither made it to a floor vote.
Not surprisingly the Washington Post and the Huffington Post were quick to point out the real motives behind the bills related to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Washington Post said it is also likely to have a far-reaching impact on American Muslims at a time when Muslim community leaders say the religious minority is facing the worst harassment it has seen since the aftermath of 9/11.
The Huffington Post pointed out that American Muslim advocates contend that the real intent of Cruz’s bill has little to do with foreign policy rather the legislation would enable the U.S. government to target domestic Muslim groups that Cruz and others earnestly believe are part of a massive, covert conspiracy to destroy the U.S. from within.
"Proponents of the measure, including members of Trump’s incoming administration, have long used the Muslim Brotherhood label as shorthand for Muslim organizations, politicians and government officials with whom they disagree, and civil rights advocates fear those allegations could be used as pretext to investigate and alienate those who challenge the government’s treatment of Muslims" the Washington Post said adding:
"Supporters of the designation have wielded it most frequently against advocacy groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which regularly files lawsuits on behalf of Muslims over alleged discrimination, as well as against charities. They have also used it to attack Democratic members of Congress, Muslim government officials, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and the Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who criticized Trump at the Democratic National Convention in the summer."
However, on March 27, the Washington Times reported that Trump backed off Muslim Brotherhood's designation as terrorist organization. President Trump has — for the time being — put on the back burner an executive order designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, the Washing Times quoted U.S. officials close to a heated debate inside the administration over the status of the global Islamist movement.
The officials say the administration backed down from a plan to designate the Brotherhood in February after an internal State Department memo advised against it because of the movement’s loose-knit structure and far-flung political ties across the Middle East.
American Muslim groups condemn Trump's Termination of DACA Program
Major Arab and Muslim civil advocacy groups have condemned President Trump's termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5, 2017.
DACA is the Obama-era federal administrative relief from deportation policy that protects the rights of some 800,000 undocumented young people, commonly referred to as "Dreamers," brought to the United States as children.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a press conference Tuesday that the DACA program is "being rescinded." Sessions said the Department of Homeland Security would begin a "wind down" of DACA.
In a statement, National Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, Nihad Awad said: "The American Muslim community and CAIR stand with the 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to our nation as children, who call the United States home and whose only dream is to come out of the shadows and to stay where they belong.
"By terminating DACA, even with a six-month delay or 'wind down,' President Trump is pandering to the demands of anti-immigrant extremists and harming our nation by targeting some of the most dynamic and success-oriented members of society. In practical terms, the 'delay' in implementing the termination is meaningless for the vast majority of Dreamers and will inevitably result in chaos in their lives."
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) strongly opposed the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA and put the lives of nearly one million young people in jeopardy.
"Killing DACA is more than just a brutal wakeup call to almost a million ‘Dreamers,’ it is a wakeup call to the world that America is willing to cast away its own children because of the actions of their parents,” Samer Khalaf, ADC President said. “Congress must act to extend DACA and show that this country stands by all its people, regardless of how they got here,” Khalaf added.
DACA, instituted by the Obama administration in 2012, allowed undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors and who met certain standards to receive two years of deportation deferral, eligibility to obtain work permits and the opportunity to seek an education.
Ending DACA will have an immense negative impact on Dreamers, but also on the communities they live in, schools they attend and industries in which they work. Losing Dreamers means losing a piece of America as we know it. ADC believes that immigrants who come to this country and work hard to live their American Dream should be praised and accepted with open arms.
On the positive note
The County of Santa Clara proclaims August 2017 as Muslim appreciation month
The Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara on August 14, 2017 proclaimed the month of August as the month of Muslim Appreciation. The Santa Clara County proclamation said Muslims have been part of U.S. history from the beginning, have contributed to the production of wealth and construction of the nation, and have served in defending our nation; they are also part of the rich history of the civil rights movement; and over 67,000 Muslims live in Santa Clara County and make innumerable contributions to the cultural, political, and economic fabric and well-being of California and the United States.
The proclamation pointed out that the South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA), established in 1980, was one of the first mosques to be established in the Bay Area and the Muslim Community Association (MCA) in Santa Clara is the largest mosque in Northern California; and Santa Clara County is home to numerous mosques in the Bay Area from Masjid-al Hilaal in Milpitas and the Hatemi Masjid in Palo Alto to as far south as the South Valley Islamic Center in San Martin.
Hence, the proclamation said, it is appropriate to acknowledge and promote awareness of the myriad and invaluable contributions of American Muslims in California and across the country, and extend to them the respect and camaraderie every American deserves.
Woodland City Council recognizes the month of Ramadan
The Council of Woodland City (CA) on June 20 recognized the Islamic month of Ramadan which is a month of spiritual consciousness and higher sense of social responsibility for the less fortunate. The proclamation said 1.7 billion Muslims of the world celebrate their holiest month of Ramadan every year. "During this month, Muslim observe fast and abstention from eating, drinking, smoking and intimate relations from dawn to dusk." Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam including Announcement of Faith, 5 daily prayers, Charity for the poor Fasting during the month of Ramadan, and Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, the proclamation said.
The proclamation was issued in the wake of what has been a nationwide anti-Muslim attitude on the part of some Americans as well as President Donald Trump, Jim Smith Editor of the Woodland Daily Democrat pointed out.
The Ramadan Proclamation 2017 Mayor Barajas presented it to the Muslim Community via Khalid Saeed national president of the American Muslim Voice. Khalid Saeed thanked the Woodland City Council for thoughtful approval and said: "This proclamation is so important because it tells hate mongers and Islamophobes that Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of American society, and in Woodland we will not accept efforts of some of 'otherization' of segments of society. We the Muslims are peace loving citizens of united states , positively contributing to the community and the country. We are being victimized on guilt by association for no fault of our own."
Japanese-Americans Speak Up for Muslim-Americans
About 200 people gathered in March in front of City Hall in San Jose, CA, to express the solidarity with Muslims. The event was organized by the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee and the South Bay Islamic Association. Masao Suzuki of Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, the architect of the rally, explained: “In the lessons learned from 75 years of resistance from 1942-2017, we say No to Concentration Camps and Islamophobia. President Trump’s Executive Order 13769, banning travel from 7 Muslim-majority countries, has brought back painful memories of internment, among the darkest chapters in American history. We will not let Muslim-Americans stand alone. We will stand by them. We will not allow history to repeat. Never again!”
Abdus Satar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.
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