The First Amendment of the US Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Even though only US citizens are guaranteed the protections enshrined in the Constitution, separation-of-church-and-state in practice prevents the US government from discriminating against a religion in all of its laws, including its immigration laws.
Because US culture and history is defined by the formation of our democracy, the principles outlined within the US Constitution should be fully intergraded into the instincts of all Americans, yet Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has demonstrated this to be far from the case.
This writer has given Mr. Trump room to demonstrate his qualifications to be the next US President, but his unruly mouth and demeanor have only further eaten away at his credentials. Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States has certainly not helped. Instead of just attacking Trump and using him as a scapegoat, however, it is important to recognize that Trump’s words do reflect the feelings of many Americans.
Because democracies thrive by addressing and balancing the interests of all citizens, it is essential to confront the fears and views of Americans who see Muslims as threats. Instead of allowing anti-Muslim sentiments to fester and explode into violent confrontations, which is the objective of groups like the Islamic State, people must be able to express their feelings in a constructive manner.
Although Trump is someone who tends to embellish the truth, he does try to be honest, which is why he is so blunt, offensive, and entirely undiplomatic. Like all people, however, the views of Mr. Trump are also influenced by his environment and those surrounding him.
A great deal of the reason why the rhetoric of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has grown increasingly sharp and divisive is that the campaign trail tends to force people into hardened positions. Surrounded by people who see Muslims as nothing more than an un-American threat, it is no wonder he sees banning foreign Muslims from entering the US as necessary and Constitutional.
Furthermore, it is easy to assume these bad influences on Trump are Right-wing hardliners and political extremists. The truth is that even moderates and liberals can feel threatened by Muslims. Even if people intellectually understand not all Muslims are terrorists, the constant reminder that Muslim terrorists are trying to kill people around the world and the resulting “Islamophobic” atmosphere help invoke these negative emotions in people.
It is similar to how people often feel black men are a greater threat to them than white males, even when there is no compelling reason to fear a particular person.
The San Bernardino shootings, for example, were carried out by two people who have an affinity for the Islamic State while the motivation appears to be terrorism. Where the couple responsible was certainly preparing for an act of mass violence, the targeting of the shooter’s workplace suggests original reports that the framed the incident as the result of a workplace dispute may still be valid. An attack on a place dedicated to those with developmental disabilities, after all, fails to send any kind of a message, except that the shooter wanted his coworkers dead.
There is a lot talk about the “radicalization” of the shooters, but it is a term that has yet to be explained. The shooters were Muslims who came to praise and respect the radical work of the Islamic State, yet this fact does explain why they became violent.
There are people throughout the US who have adhered to the radical, violent views of the KKK and various neo-Nazi groups for years, but have never committed a violent crime, even when they have amassed an arsenal in preparation for some sort of race war. As such, what really matter is what escalated the perpetrators of San Bernardino shootings to stop preparing for war and go to war.
Part of the reason the San Bernardino shooters likely became violent is that they were influenced by violent people from the Muslims world.
Although the shooters are responsible for their actions, they were also likely encouraged by the growing anti-Muslim sentiments in the US and workplace disputes. Because the shooters were alienated by the feelings and actions of the nonviolent in social circles, they were drawn to the violent Muslims who embraced them and offered them a means of expressing their grievances against those hostile toward them.
Just as indulging anti-Muslim sentiments will further alienate nonviolent Muslims and push them toward the influence of violent Muslims, the same is true of nonviolent, non-Muslims who will be drawn to those willing to use hate and violence against Muslims to feel safer.
The truth is that people like Donald Trump may actually “love Muslims,” as Trump has said, but the unchecked views of the company they keep and the inability to freely express their fears in a constructive manner pushes them toward hate and discrimination.
Instead of dividing the world along religious lines, the US and the rest of the International Community need to confront the beliefs that drive hatred by Muslims and against Muslims. Finally, the threat of terrorism is part of the broader conversation America needs to have about race and religion.
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