By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
One of the most egregious examples of “fake news” and “alternative facts” is the claim that Islam is a violent religion and Muslims are the existential enemy of the United States of America and Western Civilization — the gist of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning hundreds of millions of Muslims from the country.
Islam – a name which means “Peace” – was founded in the year 622 of the Christian Era, making the faith 1394 years old. Today, more than 1,500,000,000 people around the world follow its teachings. The religion has been convulsed by wars, starting with attempts to kill Mohammed and destroy his religion. But, in more recent times, not Muslim nations but
Western powers have waged war, mostly against one another, as in the colonial era and the so-called first and second world wars, and invasion and occupation of smaller, defenseless states, including Muslim countries.
Borders arbitrarily drawn or negotiated among the powerful nations, as happened in Africa with its current 54 nations, have left Islamic countries in seemingly perpetual conflict among and between themselves. This legacy has led to them to engaging in horrific blood-letting and internecine warfare in places such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, even Turkey, that has spilled over into other countries.
This is not to downplay the attacks which Al Qaeda carried out against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 Americans – among them at least 40 Muslims. Nor is it to minimize the horrific actions of groups such as the Islamic State and its supporters in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the globe.
But that should not detract from the fact that Muslims have a long relationship with the United States, going back even before slavery and the hundreds of thousands of African Muslims among those brought here in shackles. It may not be generally known that it was a Muslim nation, the Sultanate of Morocco, which was the first to accord official recognition to the then newly minted United States of America – in 1777.
The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are just that, Americans. They love their country just as much as other Americans and, in the case of immigrants, probably more because of what the United States stands for and what the nation offers them: freedom in a haven unlike any other on the planet.
Dastardly attacks, verbal and physical, such as assaulting girls wearing the hijab or head covering in keeping with their cultural tradition, are part of the trend of demonizing of all Muslims, including Trump’s immigration ban. They have a two-fold origin. The Islamophobes, including Trump himself, have been nurturing hatred towards the religion and its adherents for a long time, believing, wrongly, that Islam and Christianity are incompatible. Just as the confrontation with the Soviet Union led to the demise of the birthplace of Communism, so too they have been fostering an implacable hostility towards Islam in hopes of delegitimizing it as a religion.
And then there are those, a few of whom are now in positions of power, who maintain that the United States of America is ordained by God to be a nation exclusively for white people, devoid of Muslims and others of that ilk.
The hatred is honed towards the three million Americans – a quarter of whom are African Americans — who believe in Islam and are relatively powerless politically to defend themselves unless they have allies in their struggle to assert their rights. Those allies are growing in number, as seen in the large-scale repudiation of Trump’s executive order.
But not enough Americans are speaking out against this abuse of power. In fact, it was ironic that, on Sunday, while 23,000 people took part in the Miami Marathon, only 300 showed up at Miami International Airport to protest Trump’s violation of the rights of one religious group.
Those who are still fence-sitting would do well to remember Pastor Martin
Niemöller’s cautionary words during the rise of Nazi Germany: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. After the Muslims, who next? Mohamed Hamaludin, a Guyana-born Muslim, is a retired editor who worked with The Miami Times, The Miami Herald and South Florida Times.