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Trump’s hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric harms us all

Brendan LaRocque

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump harbors a serious prejudice against Muslims. He has made that abundantly clear time and again, from his repeated efforts to promote a Muslim “travel ban,” in his voicing support to “strongly consider” closing down mosques, from his false claim that there is “no real assimilation” of even second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants, to his stating, “I think Islam hates us.” Trump’s latest expression of vile anti-Muslim sentiment comes, predictably, via his twitter account.

On Wednesday morning Trump retweeted three inflammatory videos from a bigoted, far-right leader of the Britain First Party, effectively stoking an already smoldering anti-Muslim atmosphere in both the UK and the United States. Setting aside the fact that at least one of the videos appears to be falsely represented, British leaders, to their credit, immediately recognized the toxic nature of Trump’s propaganda. Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s office unequivocally condemned Trump’s resending of the videos, saying “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect.”

The British have every reason to see Trump’s promotion of blind bigotry as hostile to their national interests. Recall that when London suffered terrorist violence at the hands of Islamist extremists in June, Trump’s immediate response was to tweet attacks on the city’s mayor, no doubt because the popular mayor happens to be Muslim.

Trump’s most recent retweets have more broadly evoked revulsion across the world. A Los Angeles Times editorial cogently summed up the danger that the President’s latest social media messages represent, noting that they escalate “Trump’s demonization of Muslims,” and have “given aid and comfort to anti-Muslim bigots.”

It must be said that it takes but a few minutes for anyone with a computer and internet connection to come up with videos that show acts of violence perpetrated by any particular religious or ethnic group against another. If your goal is to stir up rage and hatred toward, say, Latinos, African-Americans, Buddhists, Christians, whites, or Muslims, all you need to do is Google videos of “group ‘x’ attacking group ‘y’” and voila, shocking and grotesque videos of all manner of assaults appear on your screen. Conveniently for someone like Trump, there are extremist right-wing bloggers that continuously collect and tweet out anti-Muslim videos, requiring but a tiny, lazy effort to further spread such hate propaganda.

Nevertheless, in direct contrast to the minimal effort required to broadcast such propaganda by the holder of the most powerful office in the world, the impact of these expressions of hate is huge. There’s no doubt that it is Muslims themselves who suffer first and foremost from the promotion of anti-Muslim hatred. The U.S. generally, and Minnesota specifically, are witnessing the growth of anti-Muslim attitudes, and a concomitant rise in acts of violence against followers of the Islamic faith. But in additional to Muslim victims of bigotry and violence, American democracy itself is diminished and harmed when we are encouraged to grow suspicious of and even despise our neighbors. Trump’s horrid misrepresentation of Muslims is deeply corrosive to the values that bond our communities together and allow us all to pursue the same values of “decency, tolerance and respect” that the British prime minister evoked.

When our neighbors' places of worship and education are being violently attacked, as with the recent bombing of a mosque in Bloomington, we need to understand that these are not just attacks on Muslims, terrible as that itself is. They represent an attack on the core values of our society, and as such are a clear and present danger to our highest ideals as a society.

There is no reason to think that President Trump will rein in his destructive urge to undermine core elements of American society’s values, no matter the damage it causes. Therefore, now truly is the time for all people of good will to come to the aid of their country and stand up publicly against the corrosive hatred that would turn us against one another in ignorance and fear.

Brendan LaRocque, Ph.D., has taught about the history of Islam and Muslim societies at colleges including Macalester, Saint Olaf, Augsburg, Carleton, and Saint John and Saint Benedict. 

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Comments (10)

In True Islam, there is no such thing as a Muslim terrorist.

Having lived among the East African Diaspora Community, and Muslim Community at Riverside Plaza Apartment Complex, since the early 1990's, and having attended both Macalester College and University of Minnesota, and a boarding school in Europe with lots of experiences with true Muslims since as far back at 1969, I decided to read the entire Quran in March 2017.

The Quran speaks of peace, sincerity, widespread brotherhood among all people, and being godly. In Chapter 22, it talks about going to war only if it is to defend against pillagers and other hateful parties who attack a community because the community is Muslim.

Quite aside from the national news and the ignorant and hateful speech of a U.S. president who has only a bachelor's degree in finance, and very little, if any, studies in the humanities, social sciences, or care for our nation's eminent Constitution of the United States of America,and integrous leadership in his local and national, and international communities, the Quran teaches Muslims to be kind to their prisoners, their women; and they accept the teachings of Moses and Jesus Christ as eminently important in their belief system. The Quran does not induce participants to cut of the heads of prisoners, attack hospitals -- let alone Muslim led hospitals,

As well, Muslims accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and the immaculately conceived son of Mary. They revere Old and New Testament teachings and many messengers and prophets in those religions as being highly significant in their development.

Muslims are strict monotheists, and, as such, do not believe in Jesus as the son of God. Yet, in supplemental Islamic teachings not published as part of the Quran, they accept the Jewish and Christian faiths God, as God/Allah, as being one in the same, and only singular in nature. They think of te teachings of the Jewish and Christian faiths as being predecessors to the advent of The Prophet Muhammad's teachings.

In Chapter Eight, there is a long history of religious wars going after Jews, Christians and Hindus, but the explanation for that earlier teaching is that those who considered themselves Jewish and Christian had fallen away from godliness; during that early period, they went to war against Hindus, as they as polytheists. Later teachings promote brotherhood and peace, regardless of what current or subsequent nations thought to be Muslim have done to others.

It is important to note that groups known as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, al-Shabaab, and others who incorrectly identify and brand themselves as Muslim, use offensive violence are not considered -- by my neighbors, classmates, and friends from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, and Afghanistan, and Ethiopia and Somalia -- as true Muslims but as "fallen Muslims," who do not represent the true and most relevant teachings of the Quran.

My dad is now a retired real estate law, corporate law, and business law attorney who has served as a state and federal prosecutor. During his years, he has brought me to business and real estate closings, and to the homes of influential Muslim leaders before I started college. I have long been interested in developing friendships with many people throughout the world given the opportunities I have experienced.

I hope everyone reading this post and the attending and original article, will open their minds to the truth about Islam, which is an inherently peaceful teaching, despite what historically anti-Muslim press and political figures have offered as either ignorant understanding or blatant disinformation.

Barry N. Peterson, B.A., History

Since I have not read the

Since I have not read the Quran, I have no reason to disbelieve you and would trust your description. However, I question your blame assignment. You said that “al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, al-Shabaab, and others who incorrectly identify and brand themselves as Muslim” (I assume we may add Hamas and Hezbollah here as well) use violence and are not considered true Muslims. So don’t you think that they should be blamed for people’s wrong perception of Islam, not the media and the politicians? As you said, all those groups call themselves Muslims so how do people, who don’t have knowledge you have, can figure it out?

Please read an English version of the Quran

Hamas and Hezbollah have been defending themselves against the arrogant and violent attacks against Palestine, as oppressors of the Muslim communities who they hate and who the current leaders of Israel hope to control. Israelis have taken over privately owned land, and have gone against centuries old customs ofr cohabiting that area in peace, until 1949.

While Israel may be the place where Jesus Christ was born as a Jew. Israel has used missiles against Muslim neighborhoods and hospitals. Under Quranic teachings, and by any common sense and humanistic care for people living in that vicinity, Israel must cease all intrusions and military activity against people who have lived in that region prior the end of World War II. When that happens, I believe that the Palestinian community will cease firing on Israeli neighborhoods.

As a friend of Jewish and Latvian literati elite survivors of Auschwitz, I understand the desire for Jewish people to have a homeland. However, my greater desire is to see a democratic answer to this problem.

During the time that Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat represented the two ethnicities and that region, I wrote to both parties, in friendship and neutrality, to encourage democracy, peace and friendship and cooperation. Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon was in a coma when his assistant, Berit, received my short note of friendship and peace, and was kind enough to thank me for my concern for peace in that region. I was inspired to write, given U.S. President Jimmy Carter's actions that provided substance and content that prompted the Nobel Society to honor him with the Nobel Peace Prize.

I was further inspired by the work and elevation to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who I met during his visit to the small Norwegian town of Elverum, in the Eastern Valley of Norway, where we were prominent activists in favor of bringing to end apartheid in South Africa, I sang to and with the Archbishop during the evening of his visit to the community center in Elverum, and I later corresponded with him while he was in New York for prostate cancer therapy. He responded with a note indicating his memory of the night of our meeting, and was kind.

What I love about Tutu is his sense of humor and willingness to forgive, as he, Nelson Mandela, and South African Minister of the Interior Pik Botha, and others, came together in the spirit of friendship and forgiveness to develop and engage in the Truth and Reconciliation Counsel. Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Tutu was my age when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. I seek to move from poverty and underemployment at Jimmy John's (a great gourmet sandwich shop) where I serve as a cashier and clean-up employee during the lunch rush. Health concerns following college, as well as four recessions, kept me from graduate school and a proper career.

My statement of those terrorist groups you mentioned as being non-Muslim in practice, and which allow the continued defamation of the Muslim community which practices peace and defensive response to Israeli attacks, has come from the Muslims who I inferred in my earlier post. Most Jews in the United States do not believe in the intensity of the so-called Jewish lobby, as noted in popular news broadcasts and articles which have appeared over the years on major media.

My emphasis, as is predicated by Moses, Jesus Christ, and the later teachings of The Prophet Mohammad, and Mahayana teachings of Nichiren Buddhism in the Soka Gakkai International community, is on developing peaceful relations among communities, as well as the Ten Commandments noting, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." I am otherwise neutral on the affairs that go on in the Israel/Palestine territory, and have engaged Israeli and Palestinian vendors and shoppers at Mall of America, who were vociferously arguing near an Israeli skin cleanser shop about the ills of the recent history of that region -- to cease and desist their flagrant and loud arguments, noting that I would have all parties arrested for disorderly conduct at that mall if they did not cease their loud, insulting and hostile public conduct at that privately owned public accommodation.

Most of the press in the United States kowtows to pro-Israeli sentiments. Now that we are learning of the truth about Muslims who follow the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Quran, it is time for us to adapt, further evolve, and to seek great peace and understanding and good business and travels for all on this small planet.

The Muslims who I have known as friends, classmates, roommates, and neighbors have been from both very educated and powerful families in Egypt. Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, and both Somalia and Ethiopia, as well as from Ghana, and the Seychelle Islands, Malaysia and pro-U.S. families from Pakistan and Abu Dhabi, as well as from financially, materially and poor families -- many who are in their midlife just now seeking graduation from the sixth grade -- with pride and excitement. A friend of mine, who is next to being my brother, and who votes as a Republican (I have been an active Democrat since 1979), is Jewish and very pro-Israeli and not inclined to have brotherly notions about anyone from the Palestinian community. We have enjoyed our friendship since 1991, and carry on in debates, loosely defined and annoying arguments, and then, again, peace and friendship.

Please take time to go to the library or a local mosque bookstore and read, for yourself, what is actually taught in the Quran. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson did this, and U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN, 5th District) took his oath of office on the Quran from Jefferson's library, as he is a Muslim and attorney by training. Jefferson was one of the collaborators who brought into history the Constitution of the United States of America.

Educating oneself, whether formally at a place like Macalester College, or Harvard, or University of Minnesota is one way to gain understanding, friendships,and sophistication. I was approached by a young man named Ali, in his hamis -- the religious and traditional garment for Middle Eastern and Muslim men -- in the hallway of Riverside Plaza's B-Annex Building. He simply asked, "Do you want to read a book?" I responded with, "Is it the Quran?" and he said, "Yes, I have several in my car." I replied, "Have at it," as I was tired of Donald Trump's ignorant of knee-jerk hatefulness to a religion with 1.8 billion practitioners, whose only interest he has in conducting business is for raw, unsophisticated, anti-social financial and political aggrandizement; and most often in opposition to decades of human and civil rights laws and evolution which have come to us in our nation's and international laws through bipartisan and common sense support. Ali was back in twenty-minutes.

During a period of non-employment, I took a week in March 2017 to read throughout a six day period, twelve hours a day, with breaks. I was astonished as to how little I knew about Islam. One thing that is not taught in the Quran is that men who go to Paradise DO NOT have the reward of seventy-two or ANY virgins. The descriptions of Paradise are great for people who have lived in the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa.

Please note that while I am an active Democrat, I have spent time with men and women who were visitors to Dinnaken House, a lodging for postdoctoral fellows from abroad, as well as graduate and undergraduate students and families of University of Minnesota Medical Center patients, owned by the late Jim Cargill, who was familiar to many of us, and the grandson of the Cargill family members who initiated progress on what is now the most profitable privately owned corporation in the United States. I spent a lot of time at former U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger's Office (R-MN) in the early 1980's, while also working on Democratic and DFL campaigns. U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer and his wife and friends were cordial to me during our meeting at his Christmas celebration when he was a candidate for Congress. While I have a broader interest in seeing our communities develop than Congressman Emmer's vision, he was kind, and did not treat me in an alien or unwanted manner. He and his friend, Mr. Peterson, who was a Democrat for many years, were respectful and inviting.

Thank you for your question. I hope you will take me up on at least a neutral and objective reading of this important religious book. I have known only members of Muslim faith who are peaceful, loving, and interested in their communities. As a student at Macalester College in the 1980's, from which I did not eventually graduate, I met members of the Taliban in downtown Minneapolis at Nicollet Mall and Eighth Street, who were then allied with the United States. Diversity and education and friendship is the core of my basic character. I hope to encourage as many people to take on these interests and virtues as possible through my occasional writing to WCCO Television, and MinnPost, and conversations with people on Metro Transit buses and Light Rail Transit trains, and elsewhere.

With best wishes to you!

Barry N. Peterson, B.A., History
University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, B.A., History, Class of Winter 1996

Not every Muslim is a

Not every Muslim is a terrorist, and not all support terrorism; that is true. But if only 1% are, that is 10 million. We cannot, and should not paint all with the broad brush, but only a fool would discount the threat.

And, how do you respond to Tutu's legacy, sir? The bloody massacre of South African farmers, and the government's blatant support for it?

Scholarship requires an unbiased investigation. I haven't detected that in your writing.

Nope

I loathe Trump and his anti-Muslim bigotry. I have Muslim friends and colleagues. So take what I say here with that in mind: your analysis of Hamas and Hezbollah is insane.

You say that these groups are only defending themselves against Israel's violence. But then you acknowledge that they are firing on Israeli neighborhoods. That is, Hamas is targeting Israeli civilians. How is that in any way defending themselves?

You say that if Israel meets certain conditions "believe that the Palestinian community will cease firing on Israeli neighborhoods." That's the means to a peaceful solution? Meet these conditions and we'll stop killing civilians?

Israel is a democracy, and there are people and politicians that want peace and justice for the Palestinians. But the rockets that Hamas shoots at civilians completely undermines those people and empowers Netanyahu and the Israeli right. People don't respond to threats and killing of civilians by offering peace - they do the exact opposite. It hardens their positions.

Don't think I am excusing Israel's behavior - it has done a lot of terrible things. But if you are actually interested in a solution, you can't whitewash the other side's behavior. You have to stop making excuses for violence.

Wow. A thoughtful comment;

Wow. A thoughtful comment; I'm impressed.

Not so hard

So Trump and his buddies spew racist hatred but call themselves Christians. For a couple hundred years American "Christian" churches, especially in the south, were divided along racial lines. Onward Christian Soldiers have been going into third world countries for centuries forcefully trying to convert or destroy native populations and their beliefs. So how does a non Christian think anything but that Christians are oppressors and warmongers, racists and hypocrites?

If you don't have knowledge, gain knowledge. I think a safe starting point when judging any major religion is that the core of the religion is a peaceful alignment with the will of God or of nature. Assume that any phenomena that goes against that is manmade.

“If you don't have knowledge,

“If you don't have knowledge, gain knowledge. I think a safe starting point when judging any major religion is that the core of the religion is a peaceful alignment with the will of God or of nature. Assume that any phenomena that goes against that is manmade.” I am afraid you didn’t really read my comment: Where did I express any negative judgment about Islam? And yes, absolutely, terrorism and violence are manmade… but we still have to acknowledge the reality.

Trump in Indonesia

I am a 50-year Minnesota resident. I also live and work with the people of the largest Islamic nation on Earth, Indonesia. Out of one side of Trump's mouth is full of anti-Muslim propaganda but out of the other side fact be know that one of Trump's biggest business partners is Harry Tanoe, a Muslim Billionaire from Jakarta, Indonesia. The two are building multiple high-end hotels and golf resorts on the islands of Bali and Jawa. So, when it comes to money there are no bad Muslims. I am encouraging the Indonesian Government to ban Trump's private business there. I am surprised that news like this is not in the news cycle.

True Islam

Most religions have the same problem: cherry-picking. As Chris Hedges noted in American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, both sides (god is love vs god is vengeful) of Christianity are cherry-pickers. There is ample room in the Bible to support both views. Therefore, who's to say who qualifies as Christian? Considering the deep rifts in Islam, I suspect Muslims have the same problem. Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are similarly afflicted.
All of them have groups that lust for other people's blood, and they all do it in god's name.
As Pope Francis noted, "Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions."
Let's forget about the trivialities of religion (Islam vs Christianity, etc.) and focus on the real issue. How to deal with murderers-for-god. How to deal with people who have severed themselves from reality in favor of religious fanaticism?