For years, conservatives have attacked Muslims like me by accusing our religion of supporting things like misogyny and despotism. Awkwardly for all of us, however, they’re spending a lot of time and energy trying to make America a more patriarchal and unequal place.
Just look over Donald Trump’s big foreign policy speech from Monday (Aug. 15). Some of it was boilerplate, sure. Some of it proposed policies long since put in place. It also included the latest Republican superstition: If only we call them “radical Islamic terrorists,” their power will be broken.
I guess from some angles Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could be confused for Rumpelstiltskin.
But my favorite part of the entire speech was when Trump explained his approach to immigration. To fight extremist infiltration, Trump called for “extreme vetting” of immigrants. In a Trump presidency, all potential entrants to the United States would first have to prove that they agree with American values. But here’s the thing: A lot of the ideas Trump claimed should be part of the vetting process are actually more aligned with liberal values rather than conservative ones. For example, according to Trump, ”those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support hatred and bigotry, will not be admitted for immigration into our country.”
Sounds like criteria a Democrat would approve of, to me.
You’ll notice Trump’s criteria did not include a belief in limited government; or the idea that a man should always be head of the household; or that traditional (heterosexual) marriage is the only valid kind of marriage; or that everyone is deserving of unrestricted gun ownership.
And I must have missed the part where Trump demanded we should only accept Muslim immigrants who want to slash taxes on the rich and unleash the full power of job creators like himself. Very surreptitiously, Trump seems to be creating a criteria system to weed out radical conservatives.
In the long term, Trump’s plan might even keep America safe from at least one form of extremism: his own party’s.
Trump’s insistence that we exclude Muslims unless and until they ascribe to exactly the kinds of values that he himself does not seem to put much stock in is a yuge double standard, of course. An Islamophobia deeply rooted in centuries of racial supremacism and religious intolerance.
I recoiled from Trump’s language in the same way most Muslims detest the expression “moderate Muslim.” All it really means is an acceptable, agreeable, amenable Muslim, who endorses the right policies, no matter their moral content. That’s how far-right anti-Muslim bigots find themselves championing Egyptian dictator Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. He sounds all the right notes on radicalism, so he must be the good Muslim. That he overthrew Egyptian democracy, and slaughtered hundreds of peaceful Egyptian protesters at Rabaa, or that torture is rampant in Egyptian prisons, is beside the point.
But it’s worse than that. It’s not just that “moderate Muslim” often means a Muslim who endorses our preferred foreign policy, it’s that the term “moderate Muslim” suggests Islam is the cause of radicalism and, as such, the average Muslim is guilty until proven innocent.
It would be different after all if Trump had said: We welcome all Muslims, and indeed all people, unless they belong to a radical minority. But he didn’t.
When Trump talks about separating the “moderate Muslims” from the “extremists,” he reinforces the idea that there’s something inherently wrong with Islam itself—it’s right there in the word “moderate itself.” Islam needs to be diluted, mixed with something else, to make it safe for public consumption and acceptable to democracy.
Never mind that most ISIL fighters haven’t the first clue about Islam. The more Muslim you are, the more dangerous you are, and the less Muslim you are, the trustworthier you are. Think I’m being hyperbolic? In France today, the clothes you wear have become harbingers of terrorism. But with every challenge comes an opportunity. Trump’s supporters cannot be separated from the man himself.
The longer Trump’s campaign continues, the more he drags a racist GOP down with him. Because when you stand with someone who stands against democratic values, guess what? You may be American, but you’re no moderate.