Let‚Äôs cry wolf when we see one
There are signs that Islamophobic views of some Trump aides are mixing in with anti-Semitic and white supremacist sentiments of other supporters.
Demonstrators participate in an anti-hate rally at a Brooklyn park, in New York City, after it was defaced with swastikas on November 20th. (AFP)
2016/11/27 Issue: 83 Page: 17
The Arab Weekly
Rashmee Roshan Lall
The list of Americans and others suspicious and fearful of US President-elect Donald Trump‚Äôs initial and intended appointments is long. Their complaints are numerous and mostly presented alongside hard facts.
Retired Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn will be Trump‚Äôs national security adviser. He is described as Islamophobic based on his comments that Islam is a ‚Äúcancer‚ÄĚ and a ‚Äúpolitical ideology‚ÄĚ that hides ‚Äúbehind what we call freedom of religion‚ÄĚ. He has also tweeted that ‚ÄúFear of Muslims is RATIONAL (sic)‚ÄĚ.
Then there‚Äôs Congressman Mike Pompeo, who is slated to be nominated as CIA director in the Trump administration. He has pretty extreme views on fighting terrorism, apparently believing that reforms to US government surveillance have weakened the country‚Äôs ability to prevent terrorist attacks. Pompeo is also known to think it is a good idea for the administration to create an enormous database, starting with telephone numbers and phone records and going on to ‚Äúpublicly available financial and lifestyle information‚ÄĚ whatever that may mean.
Kris Kobach, who may be another member of Trump‚Äôs cabinet (possibly at the Department of Homeland Security), is understood to have a ‚Äústrategic plan‚ÄĚ for the administration‚Äôs first 365 days that would include barring ‚Äúthe entry of potential terrorists‚ÄĚ. Kobach also wants the United States to return to a reinvigorated plan first introduced by George W. Bush‚Äôs administration after 9/11, which recorded the entry and exit of people from ‚Äúhigh-risk areas‚ÄĚ. The plan, created by Kobach, then at the Department of Justice, bore the official name National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. Informally, it was known as a ‚ÄúMuslim registry‚ÄĚ, something the incoming Trump administration has not forsworn exactly, at least so far.
Meantime, there are signs that the Islamophobic views of some Trump aides are mixing in with the anti-Semitic and white supremacist sentiments of other supporters.
It is creating a miasma of hate around an administration that is two months away from even taking office, so much so that the Holocaust Memorial Museum has stepped in to remind the world that ‚Äúthe Holocaust did not begin with killings: It began with words‚ÄĚ.
Too true. It is important to be watchful. It is crucial to speak out when there is injustice. The media have an especially important role in informing the public of the facts and of what key developments mean.
That said, it is strategically important not to overdo the outrage ‚ÄĒ just yet. Let us wait to see if and when the Trump administration indicates it wants to undermine civil rights, constitutional freedoms and the principles of natural justice for Muslims, Arabs, Jews, black people and visually distinct immigrant groups. Let us wait to see how the administration proposes to go about it.
In other words, let us not cry wolf till we actually see one. That way, we will not weaken the argument ahead of time.
To those who scoff at this, just consider the words of Charlie Sykes, a conservative anti-Trump journalist who hosts a radio talk show on WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Explaining the political rise of Trump and the fact that his fellow Republicans appeared not to have minded supporting a candidate who made bigoted and racist comments, Sykes offered the following rationale. Conservatives have been denounced as ‚Äúracist‚ÄĚ for simply everything and for so long, the term has lost impact. Previous Republican presidential nominees, not least Mitt Romney in 2012, were denounced as racist, Sykes pointed out. Republican presidents, including George W. Bush, were similarly criticised. So when a manifestly racist Republican candidate such as Trump showed up, the ‚Äúracist‚ÄĚ label had no purchase.
In the end, the same sort of effect may be produced by yelling anti- Muslim about the Trump administration‚Äôs every move. Better to wait until there is an attempt to introduce unconstitutional or unjust anti-Muslim measures.
That will be the time to call Trump out.