The anti-Muslim bigotry from the right in America is so predictable it’s actually boring. They’re like Pavlov’s dog, but instead of salivating, they instinctively attack anything Muslim. No offense intended to dogs, which are far smarter.
So I expected that many conservatives would freak out when they heard that President Obama would be making his first visit to a U.S. mosque on Wednesday in Baltimore. (I will be attending the event.)
We heard Herman “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan” Cain exclaim on Fox News that Obama is going to the mosque because he wants to “go kissy-kissy with the Muslim Brotherhood.” And right-wing publications like The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and Town Hall all wrote of nefarious ties between this mosque and the Muslim Brotherhood.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson makes similar allegations or claims that Obama cares more about Muslims than Christians or Jews despite the fact Obama has visited synagogues and prayed at numerous churches over the years.
The reality is that it doesn’t matter what mosque Obama visited. The anti-Muslim industry, in a six degrees of Kevin Bacon type of way, would connect the mosque leaders to someone who once ate a falafel with a guy who is friends with a dude who is a neighbor to a guy allegedly in the Brotherhood.
Now if you are wondering what exactly is the Muslim Brotherhood in America, you are not alone. I’m Muslim and have appeared at hundreds of Muslim-American events across the United States and have yet to meet a person who even mentioned it. And if you Google “Muslim Brotherhood,” you will be treated to numerous articles written by these very same right-wing publications incestuously citing one another for support.
But putting partisan BS aside, does anyone actually believe that Obama would make his first visit to an American mosque that’s tied to radical Muslims or terrorism? But facts don’t matter to these media outlets. They smear every visible Muslim, be they members of Congress, Muslim organizations, or even Muslim American comedians—with the goal being to marginalize Muslims from every aspect of American society.
Now just so it’s clear, as a Muslim American, I can assure you that I have zero tolerance for any terrorism, be it Muslim or right-wing anti-government terrorists like the Bundy gang in Oregon. And I have an even greater interest in ensuring that not one more Muslim is involved in any type of terrorism because I don’t want to see people killed in the name of my faith. So if you see something suspicious involving Muslims or anyone for that matter, ignore political correctness and immediately contact the authorities.
In fact, when these right-wing media outlets or professional anti-Muslim activists have told me that certain Muslims or Muslim organizations have ties to terrorism, I sincerely respond: Let’s go to the FBI and present the evidence.
But when I offer that, they tend to stammer and backtrack. For example, one well-known Muslim hate peddler claimed to me in an email exchange that a certain Muslim group was involved in terrorism. I then invited him to come with me to the FBI to present his evidence. His response sums up well what we are dealing with—he claimed the FBI wouldn’t prosecute the Muslim group because the FBI had been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. How do you even respond to that?!
Putting all that aside, the biggest question is why Obama visiting a mosque now? The reality is that we have never seen a more challenging time for Muslim Americans.
First we had the despicable terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Those events on their own stir up anti-Muslim sentiment. But then GOP politicians have ginned up the hate to alarming levels. For example, Trump has made banning Muslims and warrantless surveillance of American Muslims a cornerstone of his campaign. The message he’s sending is that every Muslim is a potential threat to you and your family.
When you combine fear of Muslims with the hateful words of these politicians, it yields a dangerous cocktail that could actually be deadly. Typically there have been 12 anti-Muslim hate crimes a month per the FBI. However, after the Nov. 18 Paris attack, there were close to 40 in the six weeks that followed. We are talking shots fired at a mosque, death threats, a mosque lit on fire in California, Muslims assaulted, and more.
That’s one of the main reasons Obama has chosen now “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life.”
And Muslim organizations are overjoyed. Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, told me her group had been encouraging the president to visit a mosque for years. Khera explained, “Our nation is stronger and safer when Americans stand together,” and that is what Obama’s visit signals.
Robert McCaw, the government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, echoed those sentiments: “The hope is that the visit can help foster understanding at a time when we are seeing an alarming spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes.”
But the comment that truly struck me as both powerful and painful was from Suhad Obeidi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council: “Obama’s visit sends a message that American Muslims are part of the American fabric.”
The fact that a religious group that was here before the United States was even created (15 percent of the slaves were Muslims) is still simply trying to be seen as part of the American fabric is astounding but painfully true. Now the good news is that other minority religious communities have suffered through this very scenario, from Jews to Catholics to Mormons, and ultimately the haters lose out to American values. I just wonder how many more years that will take for Muslims?