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Veterans Challenge Trump’s Islamophobia

The U.S. president, Donald Trump, revealed his inner nature again earlier this week when he retweeted a series of anti-Muslim propaganda videos from the deputy leader of an ultranationalist, neo-fascist hate group in the UK. Trump sank to a new low in terms of the blatant falsehoods and myths he will invoke and propagate to incite enmity against Muslims. He has demonstrated repeatedly that white nationalism and the demonization of Islam is something that he wholeheartedly embraces and intends to advance at every opportunity. The encouraging news is that Trump’s fear and hate mongering against Islam and Muslims is increasingly being denounced by a wider spectrum of individuals and groups, including many staunch conservatives, both in the U.S. and abroad. The ground swell of resistance is steadily growing.

 

Generations of immigrants have molded the U.S. into the most pluralistic, multi-cultural country in the world. The nation prides itself on this distinction. Most of its citizens and residents uphold the tenets of freedom of religion, tolerance and diversity and apply the Golden Rule principle in their daily lives. Tragically, however, there are those in our society, like Donald Trump and many on the far-right, who hold deep contempt for Islam, maliciously distorting the teachings and traditions of the faith to foment irrational fear among the public. Oftentimes, they dehumanize Muslims for the purposes of advancing an anti-immigrant, jingoistic agenda. Hate crimes have been an outcome, and increased substantially in the months following the 9/11 attacks. While this violence decreased and leveled off in most years since 9/11 (though remained higher than in the pre-9/11 era), the number of crimes rose back to 9/11-era levels during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The international anti-war organization Veterans For Peace (VFP), which has been exposing the true costs of war and militarism since 1985, launched a campaign last year called Veterans Challenge Islamophobia (VCI). The campaign aims to build support and solidarity among veterans and allies to stop anti-Muslim rhetoric and the discrimination, marginalization and oppression of Muslims Americans, as well as Muslims abroad, especially asylum-seekers and refugees. The campaign also educates on why war — most notably the so-called “War on Terror” — is fundamentally rooted in racism and xenophobia. The campaign mission statement begins, “We are United States military veterans, many of whom saw combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam, who are appalled by the current spate of bigotry, racism and hatred expressed toward Muslims.” It goes on to say that, “Fear-mongering endangers our national security and gives rise to hatred and racism that play into the hands of an enemy…We can never defend ourselves effectively by playing into our adversary’s strategy, giving credibility to their recruitment propaganda. We endanger ourselves whenever we make that mistake…” The statement concludes with an appeal to all veterans in the U.S. “to let their voices be heard and to stand up for the values of tolerance, respect and love.”

In addition, the VCI campaign seeks to end the discriminatory, unconstitutional and inhumane Muslim travel bans issued by the Trump administration earlier this year. To enhance the effectiveness of this aspect of the campaign, VFP partnered with various peace and human rights groups working to stop the bans, such as the No Muslim Ban Ever campaign, which was organized and led by several groups, including the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and MPower Change.

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, the VCI campaign released a statement that included the following language: “…Throughout this past year we have called upon Mr. Trump to abandon his divisive anti-Muslim rhetoric. He has done more to legitimize bigotry and create division than arguably any one person has done in the United States in decades…As people of conscience, we must step up our support for marginalized, discriminated, and disenfranchised communities.” The campaign conveyed its “…sincere hope that as Mr. Trump nears his inauguration, he embraces the oath of the Presidency and the sacred tenets of equality to which we as a nation aspire…Mr. Trump will be taking an oath to lead three-hundred million U.S. Americans, of every race, ethnicity, and creed. The eyes of the world are upon him, as is the sacrosanct responsibility and history of the Presidency of these United States.” However, as we have learned over the 11-months since his inauguration, Trump has not only doubled-down on his hate speech but intensified it and translated his xenophobia into policy.

Following Election Day, VFP issued a call to action to resist the hate-filled ideologies and policies of Donald Trump, saying in part, “On the domestic front, we know President-elect Trump provides great momentum to many of the most repressive and dark social tendencies our nation has struggled to discard. Trump’s campaign ran on the toxic energy of hate. It began with calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. It revved up by calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States and it completed its triangle of xenophobia and misogyny by defending sexual assault. The Trump campaign has put on a facade of reaching out to the Black community, however his words make it clear that he is hostile to people of color…His hostility is clear enough to White supremacists that many endorsed him as their candidate…The peace movement must stand strong against policies that call for more violence and war. We must resist all forms of hate and xenophobia. We must stand in solidarity with domestic struggles that move forward women’s rights, immigration reform and all forms of racial, economic and social justice. With our allies across all struggles, we must build a full spectrum movement to create peace at home and abroad…” This critical work for peace and justice must continue at all levels. Peace at home is unattainable until peace abroad is realized, and vice versa. Peace is possible when justice prevails.

It is incumbent upon all Americans to condemn and confront hate, counter Islamophobia, and peaceably struggle to block and end attempts by members of our society to induce and incite religious and racial animosity. Commit to speaking out against anti-Muslim propaganda and other forms prejudice, racism and hatred. Stand against anyone who threatens the human dignity and safety of our Muslim neighbors, who, like all fellow human beings, deserve to be treated with respect and love. Hate is the enemy, not Islam.

 

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Brian J. Trautman is an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA, a peace activist with Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice, and an Army veteran. He is also a member of Veterans for Peace. On Twitter @BriTraut.

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