The public atmosphere is so intensely poisoned with Islamophobia and racism directed at Muslims and minorities that it has reached a crucial tipping point toward violence. It is no longer a question of whether mass violence will be committed against Muslims and minorities, but a matter of when- for all indications point to heightened levels of threat. The airwaves are dominated by civil society’s bullies who are using a venomous toxic mix of Islamophobia, racism and anti-immigrant xenophobic rhetoric, in the hope of capturing seats of power.
The leading figure in this bullying campaign is none other than Donald Trump, who has called for an American Muslim population’s registry and the closing down of mosques. Certainly, Trump has openly embraced fascistic policies discredited since the end of Workd War II, and his public gatherings increasingly resemble Germany’s early 1930s nationalist assemblies. More alarmingly is that facts are no longer relevant to his credibility, since candidate Trump creates the needed perception, despite evidence to the contrary and is correctly called the fact-free candidate.
Such was the case in Trump’s recent claim that he had “watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” The reference to cheering in Trump’s interview was an attack directed at New Jersey’s large Arab and Muslim population, who have been calling the area home for over 100 years. The work of a bully never ends and Trump has descended to the bottom of the racism barrel.
Trump was not content with a mere false reference, but continued in the interview: “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations,” Trump said. “They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might not be politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down- as those buildings came down- and that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”
Civil society’s bullies are roaming and dominating every aspect of public life and have captured the consciousness of a people worn down by economic collapse, outsourcing, failed fictitious wars abroad and broken promises of a better life ahead. Bullies stoke people’s fear and direct animus at their preferred powerless targets, so as to maximize the political, economic, and social returns for them and the small circle of funders. Civil society’s bullies function the same way as schoolyard ones and constantly scheme to steal and ravage society like vultures feeding on a rotten corpse.
Trump is stoking the flames of hatred and demonization against Muslims, Latinos, black Americans, Asians, and anyone who challenges his fascistic rhetoric with followers ready to violently pounce on anyone daring to publicly shows opposition in rallies and town hall meetings. Democracy is susceptible to demagogues and fascists who are able to rally public sentiments toward a racist and xenophobic outcome. Trump and the Republican primaries contest has become one large bullying arena.
Dealing with civil society’s bullies requires a different approach from the one hitherto adopted by the American Muslim community and their allies. A racist bully will not be stopped by a presentation of the five pillars of faith and a few solid quotes from the Quran or Hadith to illustrate how good Islam is and construct a peaceful Muslim image. The bullies and their megaphones could not care less about this approach and are more emboldened to use their fists to smash the living hell out of Muslims at home and abroad.
What works in the face of civil society’s bullies are well-organized, politically assertive and empowered communities who are serious in defending their collective constitutional, civil and human rights. Polite and courteous approaches work well with decent and well-meaning people, but bullies are neither and must be publically confronted in civil society at every turn. As Muslims face an emboldened crop of bullies, the immediate response should be to develop a broad civil and human rights coalition with all the affected minorities that will work diligently and boldly to deter and counter the rising tide of racism and fascism.
The first step in this effort is to recognize that internal struggles and division among ethnic communities as well as various groupings within the diverse communities must be brought to an end. A divided house cannot defeat the bullies. Fighting about who controls a particular cell block in jail will only empower those who run, finance and profit from the prison enterprise in the first place. Even if you control your own cell block, you are still in prison and controlled by the warden and those behind him. The time is right for freeing our imprisoned self and to break the shackles deep inside our minds, so as to help tear down the walls of racism, fascism and constructed ignorance.