How will a Trump Administration respond to the next ISIS attack?

March 9, 2017

Photo by B.C. Lorio (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo by B.C. Lorio (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Published in The Hill as an opinion-editorial written by President Salam al-Marayati:

President Trump talks about terrorist attacks - both real and imagined- with such frequency that one wonders if he views the next ISIS attack on American soil as an opportunity to whip up more hysteria against Muslims, leading to the suspension of their constitutional rights.

Presidents have traditionally been a source of calm in the eye of the storm, a fixed point for the country to rally around during times of chaos. From Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Ronald Reagan and the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, to George W. Bush after 9/11, the President reaffirms our core American values and urges us to heed “the better angels of our nature”.

Indeed, immediately after the attacks of 9/11, then President Bush spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington, where he said that terrorists, not Muslims, were to blame for violence of 9/11. He called those in the mosque “friends”, and he stated, “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens...In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.” He called for the country to heal with language of inclusiveness and shared sacrifice.

In contrast the Trump administration seems to be preparing for a war against Islam--the narrative of ISIS--with heated rhetoric crafted to stoke our basest fears, even when they run contrary to demonstrable facts. And while President Trump has repeatedly derided former President Obama’s refusal to use the phrase “radical Islamic terror” saying “to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name”, the Trump administration refuses to acknowledge anti-Muslim hate and defines terrorism only on the race and religion of the culprit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the massacre at the Quebec mosque as a terrorist attack. President Trump has yet to acknowledge it, and he missed another opportunity to condemn anti-Muslim hate in his address to Congress Tuesday night. The President does not speak of other terrorists, like Dylann Roof, Wade Michael Page, Frazier Glenn Cross, and other white supremacists.

In the days since Nov. 8, Americans have rallied behind Muslims like never before. But if and when the next attack happens, everything may change. Who from our government will protect American Muslims?

This moment calls for strong political leaders who will not contribute to the fear and hysteria being generated around ordinary American Muslims, but to bring the country together as former President Bush did around the idea that we are all Americans, regardless of religion. We need other leaders- both Republicans and Democrats- to step in and fill the void left by this abdication of moral leadership. If not the President, then we must look to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and even Vice President Mike Pence, to heal the wounds of our country after an ISIS attack.

We don’t have to look far back in our history to see the tangible, tragic effects of our government treating minorities as suspects. Just a little over 75 years ago, Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, interning hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans in camps across America. The conditions that made that abrogation of American values possible were threefold: fear stoked in the general population, the social isolation of an ethnic group, and finally, a cataclysmic event that galvanized the majority to target a segregated minority.

The president and his administration have so far stoked fear and promoted isolation of the American Muslim community. Only by strong voices on both sides of the aisle speaking out now for facts, reason, and national unity can we avoid a similar fate.

In Tuesday night’s address to Congress, President Trump spoke of the need to give our law enforcement community every tool available to fight crime. In fighting terrorism, the biggest, most effective tool in the toolbox since 9/11 has been the American Muslim community partnering with local and federal law enforcement. By continually ostracizing Muslims, the president is slowly but surely eroding this critical partnership.

As Americans, we have to be united by what it means to be an American--our allegiance to and defense of the U.S. Constitution. President Trump must decide -- treat American Muslims as partners, not suspects.

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