Out in northwest North Dakota, where the winds hit heavy on the borderline, rural Mountrail County backed Donald Trump, as did all but two of North Dakota’s 53 counties. And the city of Ross, population 97, voted a bit more heavily for Trump than the rest of the county and the rest of the state.
That’s notable because of the place Ross holds in the history of Islam in America.
It was in this farm town that in 1929 the first mosque purposely constructed as such in the United States was established. The Muslim immigrants who settled around Ross to farm in the early years of the 20th century would eventually be buried nearby. Their children and grandchildren have for the most part moved on. But the mosque, now reconstructed and sitting peacefully along a country road, can be found just beyond a simple fence featuring a star and crescent.
I doubt that Donald Trump knows there is a Ross, North Dakota, let alone that Muslim immigrants constructed a mosque there before he was born. I doubt that his aides know that Muslims were living and worshiping in the United States before the founders drafted a Constitution that guarded against religious tests and then added an amendment designed to preserve freedom of religion in a country where Thomas Jefferson believed that a mantle of protection should extend to “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”
But this history needs to be recalled, and respected, as President-elect Donald Trump begins to fill his administration with men like his incoming National Security Adviser, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who has claimed that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”
Media outlets have reported that “A key member of Donald Trump’s transition team has said that the nascent Trump administration is already weighing a plan to launch a registry for immigrants and visitors from Muslim countries.” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of Trump’s closest advisers, gave an interview to Reuters, which led the news agency to report that “Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.”
Kobach was not talking out of turn, or floating a new idea. During the campaign, Trump told NBC News that he was “absolutely” interested in establishing a database to register Muslims. As a candidate, Trump even proposed surveillance of houses of worship, saying, “We have to go and we have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques.”