I have never truly feared for the well-being of my family or friends because of the words uttered by an American politician. But that has changed after Donald Trump’s comments over the past few days about Muslims.
When I tell you that Trump’s remarks about what he has planned for Muslims in America if elected president are bone chilling, I’m not exaggerating. But to me the most frightening—and yes, I mean frightening—incident in all of this is what happened Saturday at Trump’s rally in Birmingham, Alabama. It was not just his words, but the way Trump conveyed them and the setting that conjured up a truly dark time in human history.
During his rally Saturday deep in the heart of Dixie, Trump told the crowd of thousands in no uncertain terms what Muslims could expect if he leads our nation. “Just to set it clear,” Trump stated, pausing slightly for dramatic effect. A sternness then came over his face as he declared emphatically: “I want surveillance of these people.”
You see to Trump, we are not your fellow Americans who are teachers, doctors, taxi drivers, member of Congress, etc. No, he has dehumanized us into a faceless group he calls “these people.” And Trump has unilaterally determined that “these people,” Muslim Americans, are not worthy of the same rights as other Americans. That we, Muslims, are less than fully American simply because of our faith.
Trump then implored the crowd to cheer for his plan that would strip the constitutional rights of a minority group in America with the call, “Are you ready for this? Are you ready?” And on cue, thousands in the crowd cheered as their leader beckoned.
Then something else happened at the event that should give all Americans pause. In this sea of adoring Trump fans stood a black man by the name of Mercutio Southall Jr., a well known local activist. Southall had been shouting “Black Lives Matters,” which had so upset Trump supporters that some began to assault him.
Trump, who later admitted that he had been annoyed with the interruptions by this black activist, can be heard bellowing out to his followers as they are assaulting Southall: “Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?” Adding, “Get him out of here. Throw him out!”
And shockingly on Sunday morning when Trump was asked on Fox News about the assault of Southall, he defended it: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
But Trump’s demonization of minorities in his quest for power didn’t begin or end on Saturday. He launched his presidential campaign in June in a way that earned him the praise of white supremacist groups for his demonization of Latino immigrants. But I’m sure Trump was already on the radar of these hate groups, which he has refused to denounce, given his infamous racist birther campaign versus President Obama.
And earlier last week, Trump commented to a reporter that he was open to creating a Muslim database and possibly even requiring Muslims to carry special ID cards.
Trump has also doubled down in the past few days on his pledge to order warrantless spying on Muslim Americans and even to close down American mosques. This is no different than racial profiling of Latinos and blacks and it’s no less unconstitutional.
Trump, however, was not done with his Muslim bashing. In fact, he upped it Saturday by claiming that “thousands and thousands” of Arabs and Muslims in New Jersey were cheering as the World Trade Center came down on 9/11. This is a lie. And that’s not a matter of opinion, it’s fact. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on Sunday, telling the GOP’s leading candidate point blank that the “police say it didn’t happen.” Yet Trump refused to back down, claiming he saw this on television 14 years ago.
The bigger question here is why Trump would even bring up this incident that occurred more than 14 years ago? How is it relevant to the key issues in the 2016 presidential campaign? It’s not. It simply plays well with the GOP base. In fact, just a few days before Trump began his jihad versus Muslims, a poll was released finding that three-quarters of Republicans think Islam is “at odds” with American values. Trump’s demonization of Muslims, as well as other minority groups, is simply part of his strategy to achieve power.
Thankfully, we have seen a cross section of Americans pushing back against Trump’s hate. Therein lies the silver lining. On the claim that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, numerous elected official from the Garden State have made it clear that Trump is absolutely wrong. These include the current mayor of Jersey City and longtime New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who tweeted bluntly: “To Trump: Stop your inflammatory lies about Americans.”
Even the Anti Defamation League (ADL) swiftly condemned Trump, telling BuzzFeed that Trump is “giving new life to long-debunked conspiracy theories about 9/11.” The ADL dubbed it a “a variation of the anti-Semitic myth that a group of Israelis were seen celebrating as the Twin Towers fell.”
And many on social media made it clear that if Trump ever required American Muslims to register with the government, they would too, even they weren’t Muslim. One of the most moving shows of support came from Rabbi Joshua Stanton, a man who says he tries to avoid politics, but still felt compelled to pen a touching article titled, “Register Me, Too, Mr. Trump.”
The GOP is at a crossroads that will define its party for years. They can nominate Trump, a man who has demonized American minority groups, or choose someone who truly embraces American values. But if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, they will have made it clear to America that the Grand Old Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, but the party of hate.