There are two competing visions of patriotism in this country: one grounded in exclusion and the other in inclusion. The fight against the Muslim ban, the first iteration of which was signed into law exactly a year ago, typifies this battle over American values.
President Donald Trump and some of his supporters believe we should close off America to black and brown people and terrorize those who are already here. This is an administration dead-set on demonizing immigrants and stoking fear of Islam. While Trump is not the first racist in the Oval Office, he has invested heavily in white supremacy, both as a candidate and as commander in chief.
The president campaigned on exclusion, proclaiming that Mexicans were rapists and that “Islam hates us.” A week into his presidency, Trump authorized the first of three Muslim bans. When courts blocked these executive orders again and again, the Trump administration doubled and tripled down on its efforts to institutionalize Islamophobia. Even though one circuit-court judge wrote that the ban “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination,” the Supreme Court decided in December that the latest version of it should be implemented while legal challenges continue. The Supreme Court agreed this month to take up the case, and a decision is expected by the end of June. We hope the Court will serve its role as the bulwark of our Constitution.
Since signing the first ban into law, the administration hasn’t relented. The president called violent white supremacists in Charlottesville “very fine people.” He retweeted inflammatory anti-Muslim videos by far-right ultra-nationalist political groups. In response, David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, applauded, writing, “Thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!”
Just this month, the president continued to feed the narrative of exclusion by tweeting that “3 in 4 individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges are foreign-born.” This skewed claim, written in hopes of justifying the Muslim ban, ignores the fact that over the last 10 years, 71 percent of all extremist-related murders in America were carried out by members of the right wing. Last year, 53 percent of extremist-related killings could be directly connected to white supremacy. These are the clear and present dangers the White House willfully ignores in furtherance of exclusion.
This administration, which styles itself as the vanguard of a new politics, is really the old guard of white racism. And the impacts have been devastating.
A forthcoming report, “Communities on Fire,” by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) reveals the scale of the violence under this administration. Between election day 2016 and election day 2017, SAALT documented 302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at Muslim, South Asian, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities in the United States, of which an astounding 82 percent were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. The 302 incidents are a more than 45 percent increase from the year leading up to the presidential election, levels not seen since the year after September 11.