Islamophobia and the Ballot Box!

American negative attitudes toward Muslims is at an all-time  high and the upward trend will continue unabated for the foreseeable future. More alarming is  the fact that Islamophobia has met the ballot box, and  politicians in the U.S. and Europe have found an easy path to seats of power by creating and riding a Muslim and Islamic fear wave. Fear is an easy commodity to package and sell at every corner to a populace exhausted and beaten down by economic failures, corporate down sizing through outsourcing, massive personal debt, open-ended wars and loss of hope for a better future. At a time when America’s corporate elite has wiped out the middle class and managed to create a permanent inequality that has not been seen since the Great Depression, a Muslim boogeyman is the best distraction.

China, Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, women and Muslims — to name a few —  have been assigned responsibility for the collapse of America’s middle class and supposedly weakening the country. Trump’s “making America strong again” is an empty slogan since the real causes for the current state of affairs rest with America’s elite and not those being targeted in his racist and xenophobic campaign. The ongoing Republican Party presidential campaign has been reduced to a competition on who can be more racist toward Muslims, tough on immigrants and blaming African-Americans for violence in the inner city. Islamophobia and racism has become the rallying cry for everything that went wrong in America. Overt racism has been awakened anew and making America strong means setting the clock back on civil rights and making religious and racial discrimination acceptable again.

We have come to a point where if your car breaks down it must be because either a Muslim or a Mexican is hiding inside the engine. If your wife or husband is angry it must be because a Muslim outsourced his/her job or a Mexican took the job for a lower wage. If you are facing a foreclosure, then it must be a Muslim who set you up with a bad loan. Yes, for sure we have the terrorist threat ponied around by politicians as the cause for America’s weakness but don’t let anyone stop you from thinking straight on this magnified fear and assign real responsibility for what our society is facing. Terrorism is a threat but it has to be placed within the appropriate scope so as not conflate it with the same type of alarm that was present during the Cold War and the specter of a possible nuclear confrontation.

A crop of politicians is always ready to scare the living hell out the population while scapegoating the powerless and the marginalized in order to win at the ballot box. We have seen this time and time again in American and European histories with devastating consequences every time around. The current security debates underway are more about the type of society that we are, the dashed hopes and aspirations as well as what type of racial, ethnic and religious diversity America and Europe will have in the future. Certainly, the rapid economic and social changes are producing a high level of unease that politicians are cultivating for their own narrow electoral benefits despite the long-term negative consequences. Islamophobia and racism in election cycles are appealing to fear and insecurity as a way to win seats of power.

Fear is a very important commodity and has a very high premium in the current election cycle. Fear makes people ready to vote against their better judgment and long-term interest. Fear closes future horizons and makes people ready to desire an oppressive and dead-end past, as political control and domination is confused for security and prosperity. The imagined or real oppressive distant past is nostalgically offered as a solution to the fomented contemporary chaos and problems. Fear makes political correctness the weakness that is keeping the American society down and preventing real solutions from being offered! Racist language toward communities of color and sexist speech is a nod toward “claiming” back the lost America so as to make it great again. The call is to make America racist and sexist anew!

Islamophobia on the campaign trail is a well-thought-out strategy to monetize racism, bigotry and xenophobia into votes at the ballot box. “Making America” racist again is offered as the simple solution to loss of American manufacturing jobs and the obliteration of the middle class. Trump’s  stoking of the white working class and pushing racism, bigotry and xenophobia in the campaign is an old trick by a conniving civil society figure desiring seats of power. Fear and racism, and not solutions, is what Trump is offering on the campaign trail. The call for religious-based security and profiling is intended to fan the flames of fear and to bolster the current crop of candidates’ efforts at winning the Republican nomination. Racism and Islamophobia should not be rewarded at the ballot box and America’s future is in diversity, inclusion and embrace of change.