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“If Trump Wins, Will There Be Blood?”: Maybe It’s Time To Take Crazy At Face Value

That question has gone conspicuously unasked as we enumerate the possible outcomes of November’s election. The potential impact on the nation’s economy, its foreign policy and its standing in the world have all been duly analyzed. But there has been little, if any, discussion of the potential for violence.

It is, of course, Donald Trump’s name on the ballot that necessitates the discussion. His rallies have erupted into brawls with depressing frequency; his followers assaulting demonstrators while he eggs them on.

And then, there’s this: Last year, two South Boston brothers — Scott and Steve Leader — were arrested after allegedly peeing in the face of a homeless, 58-year-old Mexican immigrant sleeping on a bench. They beat him with a metal pole, breaking his nose. Authorities say Scott Leader explained himself thusly: “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”

Trump’s initial response was simply to note that his followers “love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.” If that is the sort of “passion” a few rallies and speeches incite, how much worse would it be in the event — God help us all — of an actual Trump victory? How emboldened in their bullyboy behavior would people like the Leader brothers become with one of their own in the White House?

And that’s not even the worst-case scenario. What if the far more likely thing happens? What if Trump loses? His followers are already filled with fury and an exaggerated sense of their own victimhood and entitlement. What happens if an embarrassingly emphatic repudiation is added to that mix?

Hate crimes might be the least of our problems. The greater worry might be terrorism.

In a nation conditioned to think of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslim fanatics with difficult names, the idea will strike some as ridiculous. But to be sanguine about the danger of radical right violence is to pretend Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff in Nevada and the armed takeover of federal property in Oregon never happened. And it is to ignore a litany of radical right terror plots enacted or interdicted in recent years.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to the Atlanta Olympics bombing to a New York state plot to murder Muslims by radiation poisoning, to a massacre at an African-American church in Charleston, to the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, to the crashing of an airplane into an IRS office in Austin to a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs to, literally, dozens more, the radical right has hardly been shy about using violence to frighten people as a means of achieving their political goals — the dictionary definition of terrorism.

Small wonder Mark Potok, editor of Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, does not laugh off the possibility of violence from aggrieved supporters of Donald Trump. Radical right terror, he says, “is a worry anyway, as we go through this huge demographic transition in the United States. But the thing about Trump’s voters is that they are angry, they are riled up, and they are expecting to win.” If and when they don’t, he says, terrorism might well be their response.

It’s not as unthinkable as some of us will want to believe. Too often, as the right has descended into tribalistic incoherence, the rest of us have underestimated the crazy, baselessly reassuring ourselves that they’ll go this far, but surely no further. And too often, we’ve been wrong. Maybe it’s time to abandon baseless reassurance. Maybe it’s time to take crazy at face value.

Will there be blood? Here’s a better question:

Will you honestly be surprised if there is?

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Trump Supporters, Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Struck Just The Right Note”: At Baltimore Mosque, Obama Crushes The Muslim Haters

The two most powerful moments during President Obama’s first visit to an American mosque on Wednesday didn’t happen during his speech. Rather, they occurred in the moments before the president took the podium.

The first came when a color guard made up of young Muslim American Boy and Girl Scouts entered the venue. One of the older scouts told the flag bearer: “Proudly present the flag of the United States of America.” The audience, ranging from community leaders to Muslim-American military veterans to the two Muslim members of Congress, stood in unison to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The words of this pledge never seem to resonate as much. Here we were waiting for the President of the United States to speak to us because the spike in anti-Muslim hate had so skyrocketed that he felt compelled to address the issue. I had to fight back tears as we got to the last line of the pledge: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

You see, that last line is the promise that brought my Muslim immigrant father as well as the parents, grandparents, and even some of the people in that room to come to America. They came here for the promise of being treated equally regardless of faith, ethnicity, or race. But that promise has been in peril as of late.

And the second moment that emotionally stood out was when the young African-American-Muslim woman, Sabah, introduced the president. Sabah spoke of the challenges of wearing a hijab—some had called her a terrorist. Yet she noted that far more of her fellow Americans of all backgrounds had been supportive. And then she delivered a passionate line that elicited huge applause from the crowd: “I’m proud to be American, I’m proud to be black, and I’m proud to be Muslim.”

That is what America is truly about. We can be hyphenated Americans and be just as American as anyone else.

President Obama even touched on Sabah’s very point in his speech when he said, “You aren’t Muslim or American. You are Muslim and American.” That was a theme that came up often in his speech at the Islamic Center of Baltimore, which was part pep talk for Muslims, part calling out the haters and also part calling on Muslims to play a role in countering radicalization.

But the heart of the President’s speech was trying to educate our fellow Americans about Islam to counter the anti-Muslim climate we live in today. One that has seen close to 100 anti-Muslim hate crimes in the last two months according to a Department of Justice official I spoke to at the event, which is far higher than we see reported in the media.

Obama began by countering the concept that some on the right peddle that Islam is foreign to America. The president declared, “Islam has always been part of America.” Adding, “Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim.”

The president also spoke of how Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia statute for religious freedom expressly included Islam as one of the protected faiths (“the Mahometan” was TJ’s word for a Muslim). Obama also added something I had never heard before: Some had accused Jefferson of being a closeted Muslim. (I wonder who was the Donald Trump of the 1700s who did that?!)

Obama then traced the contributions of Muslims in America as well as noting that Muslim Americans keep us safe. “They’re our police and our firefighters…They serve honorably in our armed forces—meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom. And some rest in Arlington National Cemetery. “

And the president recognized the extraordinary Muslims he had met at the mosque that day, from educators to business people to the first hijab-wearing Muslim to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. But he added that despite the accomplishments of so many Muslims, he “could not help but be heartbroken to hear their worries and their anxieties.”

Obama relayed how he had received letters from Muslim-American parents who shared disturbing questions their young children were asking, like, “Are we going to be forced out of the country? Are we going to be rounded up?” Another Muslim American child wrote to him to say, “I’m scared.” The president responded forcefully that these are “conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children—not in this country.”

The reality though is that’s where we are today as a community. There are young Muslim Americans who have been made to feel less than fully American simply because of their faith. We are seeing Muslim-American students bullied and taunted for wearing a hijab or having a first name like Mohammed.

The questions I find myself asking are: Will it get worse? Will the extreme voices win out? Will the good people simply be “bystanders to bigotry,” as Obama put it? Or will the voices of reason prevail?

I’m sure many Muslims at the event had similar question in mind. Perhaps sensing that, Obama told the audience: “I believe that, ultimately, our best voices will win out. And that gives me confidence and faith in the future.”

With of every fiber of my being I believe the president is correct. And despite the Trumps, Ben Carsons, or others on the right who believe that demonizing Muslims will make us cower in fear or even consider leaving this country, they are wrong. Our community, like every other minority community, will grow and prosper. I say that because our nation’s history tells us so. And because of our nation’s eternal promise that liberty and justice are not reserved only for one select religion or race, but “for all.”

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 4, 2016

February 6, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Bigotry, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“There’s One Big Reason We’re Being Radicalized”: America, Look At What Donald Trump Is Doing To Us

During Saturday night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton declared that Trump is “becoming ISIS’s best recruiter.” Clinton was wrong to suggest Trump had appeared in any ISIS videos but she was right to note that his words will help ISIS radicalize people.

She also left something out: Trump has already radicalized Americans to commit and plot acts of violence right here on American soil.

The latest example came Sunday after William Celli of Richmond, California, was arrested for building explosive devices that he allegedly planned to use to kill Muslim Americans. What inspired Celli’s actions? Well, we know that Celli’s Facebook page reads like a Trump speech filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Latino and anti-Muslim comments. Celli also repeatedly praises Trump, even adding that he would follow Trump “to the end of the world.” This is not unlike social media posts pledging undying loyalty to ISIS-type groups.

But Celli is far from the only Trump supporter to turn to violence. In August, two Trump supporters in Boston beat up a Latino man while yelling anti-immigrant slurs. The police reported that after being arrested, one of the assailants stated, “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”

Trump’s response to this brutal attack in his name was alarmingly tame: “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate.” He added, “They love this country, they want this country to be great again.” Trump did later tweet that the incident was horrible and that “I would never condone violence.

But just three months later, Trump changed his tune and did condone violence by his supporters. During a campaign event in Birmingham, Alabama, Black Lives Matter protester Mercurito Southhall Jr. repeatedly interrupted The Donald. Trump responded by imploring the crowd to “Get him out the hell out of here… Throw him out!” Trump supporters then sprung into action and beat up Southhall while reportedly calling him a “nigger” and a “monkey.”

Did Trump condemn the attack and racist words directed at the black man by his white supporters? No, to the contrary. Trump told Fox News the morning after the assault, “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.

Trump was sending a clear message that violence in the name of Trump was acceptable. I know some will disagree with me, but the stakes are too high to be politically correct. Trump has and will continue to radicalize people to commit horrible acts just like ISIS does. True, the scope of the violence commited by ISIS supporters has been far worse but if Celli’s bomb had gone off and he’d slaughtered Americans, it would have been exactly like an ISIS-inspired terror attack.

And apart from these three incidents, Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims is responsible, to some degree, for the massive spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes we have seen in the last few weeks.

In recent years, there has been an average of 12.6 hate crimes against Muslims in America per month, according to FBI data. However, since the Paris terrorist attack on Nov. 13 there have been 38 anti-Islamic attacks.

A few examples include a Muslim cab driver in Pittsburgh being shot by a man who went on an anti-Muslim tirade, shots fired at a Muslim woman’s car while exiting a mosque in Florida, hot coffee thrown at a Muslim praying in a California park, and death threats directed at numerous Muslim leaders including Rep. Andre Carson, one of the two Muslim members in Congress.

And we have also seen a rash of attacks on American mosques in the past two weeks, with windows broken at the Islamic center in Palm Beach, a pig’s head thrown at a mosque in Philadelphia, hate-filled, threatening letters sent to a mosque in New Jersey, and more.

Are all these hate crimes due to Trump’s alarming rhetoric in recent weeks about Muslims, from vowing to close mosques to banning all Muslims from entering America? No. But there’s absolutely no doubt his words play a role in ginning up fears and legitimizing hate. It’s akin to the hateful fear-mongering by Southern Democrats in the 1950s and ’60s directed against blacks that then led to violence against blacks and their white allies.

Keep in mind that after the 2013 Boston marathon bombing that left three dead and over 250 injured, we didn’t see anything like this level of anti-Muslim hate crimes. As the Associated Press noted in a detailed article published a few weeks after the Boston bombing, “Muslim civil rights leaders say the anti-Islam reaction has been more muted this time than after other attacks since Sept. 11.” And Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the AP reporter then that there had been “no uptick in reports of harassment, assaults or damage to mosques since the April 15 bombings.”

What is the difference between 2013 and now? Simple: Donald J. Trump. After the Boston bombing, leading political figures weren’t actively ratcheting up hate toward Muslims. But that is exactly what Trump has been doing. Trump’s proposals regarding Muslims aren’t about enacting policies, they are about sending the message that all Muslims are a danger to our nation.

Even after nearly 3,000 Americas were killed as a result of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush did the exact opposite of what we are seeing from Trump. Bush, while addressing Congress two weeks after that horrific terror attack, stated: “I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith… Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.”

What a contrast to what we now hear from Trump. This is truly the first time in my life that I have been fearful for the safety of my Muslim American family members and friends. And I’m far from alone in that feeling within the Muslim American community.

Is this what Trump means when he says he wants to make America great again? I’m not sure, but it appears that many of his supporters alarmingly believe that’s exactly what Trump means.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, December 22, 2015

December 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Islamophobia, Muslim Americans, Radicalization | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“He’s Made The Republican Party More Trump-Like”: Donald Trump May Not Get The Nomination, But He Has Already Won

In his speech from the Oval Office on Sunday night, President Obama took care to urge his fellow citizens not to equate the extremism of ISIS with the beliefs of Muslims as a whole. “Just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans, of every faith, to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently.” Obama made his case on both pragmatic grounds (mistreating Muslims would feed into ISIS’s preferred narrative) and on moral grounds (Muslim-Americans deserve the same rights as the rest of us). Obama’s comments drew particular ire from Senator Marco Rubio, a leading Republican presidential candidate. “And then the cynicism, the cynicism tonight to spend a significant amount of time talking about discrimination against Muslims,” Rubio declared on Fox News. “Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?”

It is unclear what sort of evidence Rubio would accept. According to FBI statistics, hate crimes against Muslim-Americans, which spiked in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, have settled in at an elevated level five times higher than before 2001. If Rubio considers these dry statistics too abstract, he could look to current Republican poll leader Donald Trump, who last night proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Trump has dominated the Republican race by channeling the passions of its base more authentically than any other candidate. Trump’s imprint has been felt in ways that go far beyond his mere chances of capturing the nomination, which (I continue to estimate) remain low. Liberals fall into the habit of assuming that the most authentic spokesperson for the party’s base must necessarily be its most likely leader. The vociferous opposition Trump provokes among Republican leaders guarantees the last non-Trump candidate left standing will enjoy their consolidated and enthusiastic support. What Trump has done is to make the Republican party more Trump-like.

After 9/11, George W. Bush mostly succeeded in channeling nationalistic feelings away from anti-Muslim bigotry. Bush’s departure opened a sewer of ugly sentiments. One early episode of right-wing hysteria focused on a planned Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan, which conservatives denounced as a “Ground Zero Mosque.” Republicans argued at the time that freedom of religion, which would normally safeguard a minority group’s right to build a cultural center with a house of worship, was overridden by anti-Muslim anger. (Marco Rubio: “We are a nation founded on strong principles of religious freedom. However, we cannot be blind to the pain 9/11 caused our nation and the families of the victims.”) In the intervening years, Ben Carson has suggested a Muslim should not be allowed to serve as president, and large numbers of his fellow partisans agree. A poll this fall found that only 49 percent of Iowa Republicans believe Islam should be legal. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have both proposed to allow only Christian refugees into the U.S. — a proposal that has absorbed zero percent of the backlash generated by Trump’s comments despite being three-quarters as noxious.

Republicans distrust Trump for many reasons, beginning with his short and unconvincing record of loyalty to the party’s well-being. As threatening as they have found Trump’s candidacy, it has the convenient side effect of allowing them to define a general tendency in their party as a personal quirk associated with a buffoonish individual. The antipode of the Democratic belief that Trump is certain to rule the GOP is the Republican conviction that the cancer he represents can be cleanly severed from the body.

Take, for instance, David Brooks’s insistence a month ago that Marco Rubio needs to denounce Trump more forcefully if he is to prevail. “I’m sorry, Marco Rubio, when your party faces a choice this stark, with consequences this monumental, you’re probably not going to be able to get away with being a little on both sides.” This high-minded sentiment is actually closer to the opposite of reality. The way to consolidate leadership of a political party is not to polarize it but to straddle its divide. Trump’s most plausible opponents have doled out their rebuttals in carefully calibrated doses. “Well, that’s not my policy,” says Cruz.

Rubio goes a bit further: “I disagree with Donald Trump’s latest proposal. His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.” But note the contrast between Rubio’s condemnation of Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry and his earlier condemnation of Obama’s rejection of anti-Muslim bigotry. Rubio impugns Obama’s motives for rejecting discrimination against Muslims. (“Cynicism”!) He makes no such judgment about Trump’s motives. Rubio needs to harness the same passions that Trump is exploiting, but to do so more carefully. His anti-anti-bigotry message cleverly redirects conservative resentment away from Muslims and toward the liberals who cynically denounce anti-Muslim prejudice and refuse to present the case against ISIS as a war of civilizations.

Parliamentary systems channel far-right nationalistic movements of the sort Trump is leading into splinter parties. The American winner-take-all system creates two blocs that absorb far-right movements into the mainstream. Rubio, like all the Republican contenders, has promised to endorse Trump if he wins the nomination, a constraint that limits their ability to denounce him. You can’t call a man a fascist while promising to support him if he collects the requisite delegates. Unless Republican elites are willing to actually cleave the GOP in two — and they have displayed no such inclination — they are going to live with the reality that they are part of an entity that is substantially, if not entirely, a party of Trump.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 8, 2015

December 10, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, Donald Trump, ISIS, Muslims | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Media Is Duty-Bound To Call Donald Trump A Racist”: That Ugly Fantasy Might Just Become Our Ugly Reality

It was easy to label the Missouri murder of Craig Anderson “racist,” as BuzzFeed did in its excellent accounting of the modern-day lynching. In 2011, a group of white teenagers allegedly shouted racial epithets while beating Anderson and celebrating running him over with a truck. No one would accuse BuzzFeed of bias for calling that horrific crime racist; it’s a simple statement of fact, not a judgment call. Indeed, it’s easy to call a group of violent, ignorant teenagers committing an alleged hate crime racist.

But for some reason, when covering the people vying for the most powerful office in the land, the media is hesitant to apply the “R” word, no matter how apt it may be. And that hesitation could have extraordinarily serious consequences for the country.

Donald Trump, who maintains a comfortable lead in national polls, launched his campaign by arguing that Mexico sends rapists over our border illegally. His subsequent rise in the polls came not in spite of this anti-immigrant rhetoric, but because of it.

There has long been a racist undercurrent in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. And the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by ISIS-affiliated terrorists have exposed it to sunlight.

When the Paris attacks were initially — and falsely, it appears — blamed on terrorists who had snuck into Europe with Syrian refugees, each of the Republican presidential candidates strived to be the most fiercely opposed to allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suggested we allow just the Christians in, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz followed up with a bill that would write that policy into law. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he wouldn’t allow 5-year-old Syrian orphans into the country.

But just denying the refugees fleeing terrorism and repression wasn’t enough. The anti-terrorism furor has grown into an anti-Muslim furor. Trump has called for shutting down mosques and refused to rule out a national registry for Muslims. Marco Rubio is trying to out-Trump Trump by calling not just for shutting down mosques, but even cafes or websites where Muslims gather.

Now, to be clear, these ideas would not only fail to combat terrorism — they would probably increase extremist violence. Repressing loyal Muslim-Americans would drive more radicalization and help ISIS and other terrorist organizations with their recruiting drives. Tell 5-year-old orphans they’re too dangerous to seek refuge in America, and you’ll create the next generation of terrorists.

But these proposals aren’t just obviously wrong-headed; they’re racist. And the media — even nominally objective reporters from mainstream outlets — shouldn’t be shy about saying so.

Nazi analogies are usually the worst. People who resort to comparisons to Hitler or concentration camps or the Holocaust are trivializing the 20th century’s greatest horror. They’re invariably overreacting.

But look at where we are today. Leading candidates for presidents are flirting with requiring adherents of a single religion to be registered. To carry identification cards. To be subject to additional surveillance. To be refused entry to the nation even if they’re escaping horrific repression. To have their houses of worship closed down.

Those are racist, fascist policies. To avoid the comparison with early Nazi repression against Jews is to avoid telling the full story. And that’s just what the media is doing by refusing to call these proposals racist.

Calling a candidate for president racist sure sounds biased, doesn’t it? After all, except for a small fringe of extremists, virtually all Americans believe racism is a Very Bad Thing. Tarring a candidate with that label doesn’t sound like objective reporting; it looks like taking sides.

But it isn’t a judgment call to identify the naked racism of Donald Trump for what it is. Several GOP candidates — even the “mainstream” candidates like Christie, Bush, and Rubio — are suggesting ideas that harken back to some of the ugliest stains on American history, like the unjustified internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

It’s not just the racism directed at Muslims. On Sunday, Trump retweeted a graphic filled with made-up statistics about how blacks commit a majority of murders against whites in the United States. It was quickly debunked; the majority of murders of both whites and blacks are committed by people of the same race.

The fake statistics from a fake organization was accompanied by a racist graphic of a black man, face covered in bandanas, holding a gun sideways. The Hill called this “controversial.” BuzzFeed said it was “questionable.”

It was actually racist.

Trump spread a false statistic about black-on-white crime to drive up an unfounded fear of black criminals. He was trying to make white people afraid so they’ll vote for him.

This is racist.

Donald Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He has expressed outright racism against Latinos, Muslims, and African-Americans. His words have already had real-world consequences. Trump supporters kicked and beat a Black Lives Matter protester at a rally Saturday. The next day Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.” Two men cited Trump when they beat a homeless Latino Boston man in August. Trump said his supporters were “passionate.”

The America Trump promises to build is ugly: walled off, repressive, and racist. If the media fails to call racism what it is, if they fail to tell the full story, then that ugly fantasy might just become our ugly reality.

 

By: Jesse Berney, The Week, November 25, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mainstream Media, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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