Another challenging & tough year for American Muslims

The seven-million American Muslims remained at the receiving end since 9/11/2001 through reconfiguration of US laws, policies and priorities but their plight has taken a new twist under President Donald Trump whose anti-Muslim, anti-immigration policies and rhetoric alarmingly fomented hate crimes against them.

The xenophobic rhetoric and anti-Muslim fear-mongering enjoys unprecedented influence with Donald Trump’s most vitriolic anti-Muslim rhetoric as typified by his election campaign declaration: “I think Islam hates us.”

Tellingly, on Oct 29, attorneys for a President Donald Trump supporter, Patrick Stein, who was convicted in a domestic terrorism plot aimed at slaughtering Muslim refugees asked a federal judge to factor in the “backdrop” of Trump’s campaign rhetoric when deciding their client’s sentence. Patrick Stein was one of three right-wing militiamen found guilty in April of a conspiracy to kill Muslim refugees living in rural Kansas.

Stein’s attorneys argued in a sentencing memo that sending Stein to prison for life was unwarranted and that a sentence of 15 years would be appropriate. They said the judge should factor in the “backdrop to this case” when crafting an appropriate sentence.

“2016 was ‘lit.’ The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” they wrote and added: “Trump’s brand of rough-and-tumble verbal pummeling heightened the rhetorical stakes for people of all political persuasions.”

The accumulated impact of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric  is that a large proportion of non-Muslim Americans think Islam is incompatible with American values, according to a research by the New America Foundation and the American Muslim Initiative. The research found that 56 percent of Americans believed Islam was compatible with American values and 42 percent said it was not. About 60 percent believed US Muslims were as patriotic as others, while 38 percent they were not.

Researchers found that Republicans were more likely to hold negative perceptions of Muslims and Islam, with 71 percent saying Islam was incompatible with American values. About 56 percent of Republicans also admitted they would be concerned if a mosque was built in their neighborhood.

It will not be too much to say that Islamophobia has entered the government. It is incorporated into the law, and becomes increasingly acceptable in America. Apparently, Muslims in America are more vulnerable to bigotry and Islamophobia as a result of President Donald Trump’s behavior and actions than they were after the 9/11 attacks.

The level of anxiety and apprehension was such a high level that many Muslims were fearful to public display signs of their faith. A number of Muslim women, for instance, were deciding not to appear in public wearing the scarf. Alarmingly, a Hijab-clad Muslim woman stabbed in Texas by two white males.

As Sophia McClennen of Salon pointed out, the month of June 2018 was an especially bad month for the seven-million Muslims in America. First, a new study of U.S. perceptions of Muslim Americans conducted by Dalia Mogahed and John Sides for the Voter Study Group showed that many Americans view Muslims in the United States as insufficiently “American,” and almost 20 percent would deny Muslim citizens the right to vote.

The Muslim Ban 3.0
Then in June, the Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s decision to institute a ban on immigrants, refugees and visa holders from five majority-Muslim countries in a 5-4 decision. This is known as Muslim Ban 3.0 since it was the third iteration of the Muslim Ban.

The synergy of these two pieces of information is critical because it reveals a common attitude that Muslims pose a threat to U.S. security whether they are U.S. citizens or not, McClennen said adding: while these attitudes do break down heavily across party lines, it is noteworthy that the study indicated that even 12 percent of Democrats would consider denying Muslim citizens the right to vote. Their study also showed that 32 percent of Democrats favor targeting Muslims at U.S. airport screenings to ensure the safety of flights. That figure compares with 75 percent of Republicans.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority of the Supreme Court opinion upholding the travel ban. He emphasized that, despite ample evidence of President Donald Trump’s animus towards the Muslim community, the ban was a security issue and not an example of discrimination, “Because there is persuasive evidence that the entry suspension has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility, we must accept that independent justification.

As made clear by Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, where she referenced the court’s 1944 decision to uphold the internment of Japanese Americans, the practice of claiming national security needs in order to implement discriminatory policy is nothing new in this country. She argued that the court’s decision “leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns.”

Taken together the Supreme Court decision and the voter study reveal a mainstreaming of Islamophobia. Whether aimed at Syrian refugees or U.S. citizens, these attitudes, policies and practices underscore the reality that America really has a Muslim problem — a problem seeing Muslims as human beings deserving of dignity, human rights and respect, McClennen concluded.

A chilling example of President Trump’s Muslim Ban 3.0 was prevention of Shaima Swileh, a Yemeni mother to see her dying son who came to the U.S. to be treated for a genetic brain condition. Ultimately Swileh was given a visa waiver. She arrived in San Francisco on December 19 while her son Abdullah expired on December 28 only nine days after her arrival.

Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents, Hate Crimes Spike
Not surprisingly, the divisive rhetoric of US President Donald Trump has fomented hate crimes against the Muslims.  Anti-Muslim bias incidents and hate crimes are up 83 and 21 percent respectively, as compared to the first quarter of 2018, according to a report released in July by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

Incidents involving government agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have also risen by 60 percent in this time period. For the second quarter of 2018, CAIR received 1006 reports of potential bias incidents, with 431 of these reports determined to contain an identifiable element of anti-Muslim bias.

The 2018 second quarter report records denial of religious accommodation as the number one type of bias incident. Many of these cases have occurred at an incarceration or detention facility, making this the number one location of anti-Muslim bias incidents in the second quarter of the year. This is the first time that detention facilities have been among the top five locations of bias incidents since CAIR has kept records of anti-Muslim discrimination.

The most prevalent trigger of anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2018 remains the victim’s ethnicity or national origin, accounting for 33 percent of the total. For the 341 cases in which a victim’s ethnicity or national origin was identified, the most frequent was “Middle Eastern/North African” at 39 percent.

The second most common was “Black/African-American” at 17 percent. At 14 percent, “South Asian” was the third most commonly targeted ethnicity. Seventeen percent of incidents occurred because of an individual being perceived as Muslim.

A Muslim woman’s head scarf (hijab) was a trigger in 16 percent of incidents. The report dataset is drawn primarily from the intakes CAIR conducts each year. With each case, civil rights and legal staff seek to ensure the highest possible level of accuracy. CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.

Civil Rights Report shows increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents in California
In August, the California Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) released its annual civil rights report which revealed an 82 percent increase in reported incidents of religious-based discrimination, anti-Muslim bias incidents, and immigration matters to all four CAIR offices throughout the state from the previous year.

The report, titled CAIR-California’s “Civil Rights Report 2018,” summarizes and analyzes all civil rights and immigration matters reported to CAIR-California’s offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, (CAIR-SFBA), San Diego (CAIR-SD), the Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA), and the Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV) in 2017.

According to the report, CAIR-CA staff received a total of 2,259 incident reports in 2017. Key highlights of CAIR-California’s report include a 503 percent increase in reported discriminatory treatment during travel from 2016 to 2017, driven primarily by the intentional discrimination encapsulated by the Muslim Ban. The number of immigration matters handled also increased significantly by 113 percent from 2016.  In 2017, CAIR-CA received the most incident reports in the following categories:  immigration (44.9%), travel matters (17.1%), hate incidents or hate crime (8.7%), law enforcement interactions (8.3%), and employment discrimination (6.2%).

On the positive note
On the positive note, three Muslims elected to House of Representatives in November 6 election. Ilhan Omar won in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District and Rashida Tlaib won in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. They are the first Muslim women elected to the Congress. In Indiana, Rep. André Carson (D) won his re-election bid for the 7th District.

More than 90 American Muslims ran for office this year at the local, state and national level according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Jetpac, a group that seeks to build a strong American Muslim political infrastructure and increase American Muslims’ influence and engagement.

The CAIR exit poll survey indicated that 95 percent of eligible Muslim voters turned out at the polls. Seventy-eight percent of Muslim voters cast ballots for Democratic Party candidates and only 17 percent for Republican Party candidates.

CNN reported winning of two Muslim Women to the House of Representative with the headline: What happens when Muslims and Islamophobes both win. Writing under the above heading, Juan Cole, chief editor of Informed Comment and Professor of History at the University of Michigan, comments about Tuesday’s election: “Perhaps the most remarkable stories are the two Muslim women elected to the House, one from Minneapolis (Ilhan Omar of Somalia) and the other from Detroit (Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, but ultimately Palestine). They aren’t only women, and Muslims, but also refugees. They are Donald J. Trump’s worst nightmare and the antithesis of what he thinks America is or should be, if you listen to his rhetoric. But actually he has some commonalities with them.”

According to Arab-Anti-Discrimination Committee, five Arab Americans were elected today to the House of Representatives: Donna Shalala (FL) winning Florida’s 27th district,  Ralph Abraham (LA) US Congress 5th District, Darin LaHood (IL) US Congress 18th District, Garret Graves (LA) US Congress 5th District, and Justin Amish (MI) US Congress 6th District. Chris Sununu was re-elected as New Hampshire’s Governor. Michael Saba was elected to the Ninth District seat in the South Dakota House of Representatives. There were over 60 Arab American candidates running for office in local, state and federal elections.

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the House of Representative in 2006, was elected Attorney General of Minnesota today. In a victory message Ellison said: “No matter what color you are, what your gender identity is, what your religion is, how much money you make, how old you may be, how healthy you are, who you love, where you live, or how you pray, know that as Minnesota Attorney General, I’ll be on your side fighting for your rights every day. Because we believe everybody counts, and everybody matters.” Keith Ellison received national attention for his decision to use an English translation of the Qur’an, translated by British scholar George Sale in 1734, that once belonged to President Thomas Jefferson for his reenacted swearing-in ceremony, which generated praise and criticisms from political pundits. Ilhan Omar is one of the first Muslim-American woman took up the seat vacated by Keith Ellison.

Five American Muslim candidates were elected to local offices in San Francisco: Sabina Zafar, Aisha Wahab, Maimona Afzal Berta, Cheryl Sudduth, and Javed Ellahie. A total of 12 Bay Area Muslims ran for elected office in the November 6 election. In New Jersey at least 11 Muslims were elected to various offices which include: Assad Akhtar, Passaic County Freeholder; Mohamed T. Khairullah, Mayor Prospect Park; Alaa Abdelaziz, Councilman, Paterson; Hazim Yassin, Councilman, Red Bank; Sadaf Jaffer, Councilwoman, Montgomery; Salim Patel, Councilman, City of Passaic; Mussab Ali, Jersey City Board of Education; Mariam F. Khan, Dennis Township Board of Education; Mohammad M. Ramadan, Passaic County Board of Education; Alaa Matari, Councilman, Prospect Park; and Adam Chaabane, Woodland Park Board of Education.

In December, The city of South Portland has elected Deqa Dhalac the first Muslim African-American woman city councilor in the city’s history. Dhalac who is a U.S. citizen with Somalian roots, is a social worker with two masters degree and mother of three children. Dhalac won the elections against her opponent Donald Cook with more than two-thirds of the vote. “My campaign was all about love,” she said. “Everybody was excited to see a different person, different representation, different faces in the city council. A lot of people were like, ‘It’s time.’”

The Muslim Awareness and Appreciation Month
The County of Santa Clara California declared the month of August as the Muslim Awareness and Appreciation Month. The Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara, California issued a proclamation saying that Muslims have been part of U.S. history from the beginning, have contributed to the production of wealth and construction of the nation, and have served in our Armed Forces and they are also part of the rich history of the civil rights movement. The proclamation went on to say Muslim Americans within California and throughout the nation strive to promote peace and understanding between all faiths, identities, and nationalities and extend to them the respect and camaraderie every American deserves. Recognizing the Muslim Americans’ contribution the Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara declared the month of August as the Muslim Awareness and Appreciation Month.


Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)



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