Islamophobia on the rise in America–but why?
What wrong has the religion of Islam done to the United States of America? This is a question I ask myself when I hear someone proposing to outlaw practice of the religion in this multicultural land of immigrants, where the Constitution discourages any religious prejudice. The Republican Party seems to be more aware of Islam’s supposed wrongs. Candidates compete to express bigotry towards Islam and Muslims. Ben Carson has expressly stated that he would not accept a Muslim to be president of the United States. Donald Trump is in favor of closing all the mosques and banning the entry of Muslims in the country if he came to power. Is this how extremism is challenged or is this a strategy to alienate American Muslims toward radicalization and national disintegration?
Millions of Muslims live in America, where Islam is the fourth largest faith. It has been present here for almost six centuries. No opinion poll ever suggested that the majority of Muslims support extremists or favour militant outfits like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Similarly, American Muslims have never demanded the enforcement of Sharia law in the country, according to any authentic piece of reporting, for which they are usually bullied in mass media. In fact, on the contrary, American Muslims, in practice, are a fine example of moderate interpretation of their religion. Like any other American, including Trump and Carson, they would like to see their home great again, and not to be an apartheid state where social liberties are curbed and minorities regularly face persecution.
The strength of America lies in its liberal and progressive values and ideals. Unlike other world powers, the U.S. is known for its strong democracy and inclusive society. This is what makes it the go-to advocate for human rights. People all over the world look to America for intervention when tyrants and bigots abuse their human dignity. What will set America apart if it also falls prey to intolerance of religious minorities? Racism and slavery already haunt American history, so why inflict even more abrasions that are irreparable and long lasting?
Surprisingly, the U.S. has always been friends with most Muslim countries under all diplomatic regimes, both Democratic and Republican. Among our key allies are Saudi Arabia, custodian of the most sacred mosques in Islam; Turkey, a great influence on the Muslim world, and our ally and member of NATO; Indonesia, which has the most Muslims and is our key economic partner in South East Asia; Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and a friendly country to us; and Pakistan, the only nuclear capable Muslim country and one of our most trusted strategic allies that helped us fight Communist aggression in the 1980s in Afghanistan. A clear majority of Muslim countries are officially our partners, suggesting that there is nothing in Islam that teaches against the United States and its values.
Americans need to challenge any “wannabe bigot,” regardless of whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. Anyone aspiring to demolish constitutional guarantees of civil liberties must not be allowed to spew religious and communal hatred. There is no doubt that each and every member of the Republican Party is a patriot and holds American values close to their hearts. Politicians like Trump and Carson have the potential to bring positive change in our economy and country, but their current political conduct suggests they could end up destroying the social fabric of tolerance and nationhood that our great leaders worked to create over the centuries.
No society should support religious extremism, but fighting extremism through bigotry is not going to bring any positive change. It is counter-productive in all its dimensions. Skepticism can only be overcome by engaging in dialogue and by building an environment of mutual trust and understanding. So before he tries to close down a mosque, I request Donald Trump take few more steps and walk into it and meet his fellow Americans and recognize their American-hood. He should inspire them with generosity and not repel them with narrow-mindedness. Be in league with them as they fight extremism. Let’s not just close down a mosque but the whole country to hatred and fanaticism; only together can we achieve this.