Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo by the Forward

Trump Stoked The Islamophobia That Led To The New Zealand Mass Murder

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“If you find yourself using the tragedy in New Zealand to take backhanded swipes at conservatives in America,” tweeted Congressman, and rising GOP star, Dan Crenshaw on Friday, “then you really have no shame and you are part of the problem.”

“Conservatives” is a broad category. So let’s narrow the focus to the Trump administration. And let’s be blunt — no “backhanded swipes.”

Has this administration blessed and fueled the anti-Muslim bigotry that, in the hands of lunatics, becomes mass murder? Absolutely.

And anyone who can’t recognize that is part of the problem.

Start with Trump himself, who in November 2015 claimed, falsely, that he had seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attack.

Then, in December, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and justified it by citing a bogus poll by the Center for Security Policy, an organization that publishes reports urging Americans to “Speak up against the opening of more mosques in your neighborhoods.” The following March, Trump declared, absurdly, that “Islam hates us.”

Then, in November 2017, he retweeted a series of videos by a racist British group entitled, “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”

Trump is not an outlier in his administration. As his first national security advisor, he chose Michael Flynn, a board member of Act for America, whose president, Brigitte Gabriel, has declared that, “If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” (Gabriel met with Trump during the campaign and, after he was elected, visited the White House).

While advising the Trump campaign, Flynn repeated Act for America’s claim that observant Muslims do not deserve the protections of the First Amendment. In a speech in August 2016, Flynn explained that, “I don’t see Islam as a religion. I see it as a political ideology… [that] will mask itself as a religion globally because, especially in the west, especially in the United States, because it can hide behind and protect itself behind what we call freedom of religion.” In another speech, he called Islam a “malignant cancer.” In February he tweeted that, “fear of Muslims is rational.”

Trump’s current national security advisor, John Bolton, in 2010 and 2011 spoke at rallies against the “Ground Zero mosque” sponsored by a group called Stop Islamization of America, led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Geller has accused Muslims of practicing bestiality. Robert Spencer has claimed, “there is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists.”

Opinion | Trump Stoked The Islamophobia That Led To The New Zealand Mass Murder

In 2010, Bolton also wrote the forward to Geller and Spencer’s book, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America, which claimed that “Barack Hussein Obama” is pursuing the “implementation of a soft sharia: the quiet and piecemeal implementation of Islamic laws that subjugate non-Muslims.”

Then, in 2016, Bolton helped convince the American Conservative Union to rescind its informal ban on Frank Gaffney, head of Center for Security Policy, who—like Flynn and Gabriel—has for years argued that since Islam is not really a religion, Muslim religious observance is not protected by the First Amendment.

It goes on. As his Attorney General, Trump chose Jeff Sessions, who in 2015 won The Center for Security Policy’s Keeper of the Flame Award. That same year, Sessions declared that, “Sharia law fundamentally conflicts with our magnificent constitutional order.” In 2013, he wrote a letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities demanding to know why it was “distribut[ing] books related to Islam to over 900 libraries across the United States.”

Opinion | Trump Stoked The Islamophobia That Led To The New Zealand Mass Murder

Then, last year, Trump nominated Mike Pompeo to be his secretary of state. Pompeo has appeared on Gaffney’s radio show 24 times.

In 2016, he won Act for America’s National Security Eagle Award. In 2013, he claimed that the “silence of Muslim leaders” in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing (a “silence” that was wholly fictitious: Muslim groups had quickly condemned the attacks) “casts doubt upon the commitment to peace among adherents of the Muslim faith.”

And as a congressman in 2016, Pompeo denounced a mosque in his Kansas district for bringing a speaker that he claimed was linked to Hamas (the mosque denied the claim) on “the day when millions of Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross”—as if mosques should consult the Christian religious calendar when determining their public events.

Opinion | Trump Stoked The Islamophobia That Led To The New Zealand Mass Murder

Let’s review the record: The President of the United States, his attorney general, his secretary of state, and his first and current national security advisors have all either made blatantly anti-Muslim statements or promoted blatantly anti-Muslim groups, or both. Islamophobia isn’t incidental to the Trump administration. It is one of its defining features.

In fact, Crenshaw himself in 2015 called Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims “hateful.” Now he’s attacking people who say that hateful rhetoric helped create the climate that made the New Zealand massacre possible.

You decide who has “no shame.”

Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.


Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

Trump White House Fueled Islamophobia in Mosque Attack

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Trump Stoked The Islamophobia That Led To The New Zealand Mass Murder

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