American Muslims victimized long before Trump. Muslims have a right to question Donald Trump’s intentions if he becomes president of the United States. But they really don’t have to ask many questions to recognize that despite her words, Hillary Clinton will do little to change anti-Muslim bigotry that continues to plague the United States.
By Ray Hanania
It’s almost as if American Muslims woke up from a long slumber and pointed a finger at Donald Trump saying he symbolizes all their racism fears.
American Muslims have been the target of racial and religious discrimination in America long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And despite promises of equality and strong words condemning anti-Muslim bigotry, it has continued to increase during the presidential administrations of two post Sept. 11 presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
That’s ironic considering that Bush asserted that his war against Saddam Hussein was to defeat al-Qaeda and to free the Iraqi people. As we know, the Iraq war didn’t free anyone and al-Qaeda has grown sprouting a new arm called ISIS.
A third of Americans (according to a CNN poll in 2015) believe Obama is a Muslim. About 14 percent refused to answer question 34 in the poll, leading some to believe the percentage is even higher.
That suggests that during the Obama years, anti-Muslim hate only reinforced itself.
Although Obama is seen to be a Muslim by a significant number of Americans, and believed to be sympathetic to Muslims by even more, the fact is that Muslims have not faired very well under Clinton before Sept. 11, under Bush after Sept. 11 and most surprisingly not under Obama.
The Patriot Act remains the driving force of that discrimination which continues to keep mostly Muslims and Arabs on the No Fly List, and the list of terrorist suspects.
The only Americans killed by their government in recent years have been American Muslims who turned to anti-American violence after they realized the American government was trying to kill them because of their activism at Mosques in the United States.
In fact, it was Obama who forcefully justified the practice in May 2013.
Why hasn’t anti-Muslim discrimination subsided? Mainly because no President has really done anything substantial to stop it. Not Bush and not Clinton, although both offered persuasive words against anti-Muslim discrimination.
Under Clinton, Bush and Obama, the U.S. Census has continued to discriminate against Arabs and Muslims, refusing to include them in the Census counts. (Honestly, the only two presidents who not only cared about Arab and Muslim rights, but also acted to protect them were President George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.)
Why are Census Counts so important? Because without it, ethnic minorities do not qualify for government grants and support. If you don’t exist on the Census, which identifies 30 other minorities by specific name, then you don’t exist in America. Except as an enemy.
(Here are some columns on the issue of the racism in the US Census: 07-16-09 Take this census form and shove it! And, 08-20-09 American Arabs should reject paid activist messages on US Census fight.)
It’s not just “Muslims” who face discrimination and bigotry in America. Arab Christians are also discriminated against in American society because the unknowing and uncaring American public just doesn’t distinguish between “Arab Christians” and “Muslims.”
After a speech I gave at a Virginia education conference right after Sept. 11, 2001, a woman educator came to me and said, “I can’t believe you abandoned your Christian faith to become an Arab.”
I can’t blame her for her ignorance. For more than a Century, American Hollywood movies have been portraying Arabs as evil villains and terrorists. Only in recent years have there been some characters and storylines with positive images of Arabs. Books and TV programs have embraced vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism, too.
One of the most popular programs on TV today is “Tyrant,” which is one of the most racist anti-Arab programs on cable TV. (Click here to listen to the podcast commentary on Tyrant.)
Some Muslims also have seen some improvement over recent years, but only the non-Arab Muslims. For example, a break through TV series called “Little Mosque on the Prairie” premiered in 2007 in Canada, but most of the actors were non-Arab, including Pakistanis, Punjabis and other non-Arab Asians. It ran through 2012 and made it’s US debut in 2013 to poor audience ratings on an obscure cable TV channel.
Everyday, Muslims continue to be attacked and even murdered on American streets, and just as often, government officials refuse to categorize the attacks as “hate crimes.”
Only a few cases, such as the murder of three college students at Chapel Hill in February 2015, have risen to the national spotlight. Most are brushed off simply as violent crimes, not “hate crimes,” as was the killing of three young Muslim Men a year later in Indiana.
Mosques have been fired at in Chicago’s suburbs, with no suspects apprehended. Mosques and Muslim center shave been vandalized, and there have been nearly 100 cases of anti-Muslim violence reported in the media just in the past two years.
Does having a President that many American see as being Muslim make a difference? Apparently not. The fact is Obama has done little to confront or more stringently enforce Hate Crime laws in the killings of Muslims.
(Some examples were listed last year by the New York Times.
The majority of the incidents have been against non-Arab Muslims.
Many American officials have spoken out against anti-Muslim hate crimes. But they have been very strategic in not expanding that to speaking out against discrimination and bigotry against Arabs in America. Violence against American Arabs often goes unreported, or is “buried” in media coverage.
Trump has rightly been criticized for rhetoric vowing to “ban” Muslims from immigrating to this country, he has explained it is intended to weed out those who are planning violence.Donald Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In contrast, Clinton has done nothing substantial or proposed any actions to defend Muslims. One of her top aides, Huma Abedin, is a Muslim, but she is the daughter of Pakistani and Indian parents. Clinton has named some American Arabs who are Muslim to campaign positions, but only at the state level mainly in Michigan where there is perceived to be a large Arab population.
Nothing has been done in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas or New York where large American Arab populations exist.
The election campaign has also spotlighted tensions that exist between Muslims and Christians and that are rarely addressed in the Arab World, the Arab media or in the American media. While many Muslim Arabs are supporting Clinton, many Christian Arabs and Middle East Christians (Chaldeans and Assyrians) are supporting Trump.
Why? Most Christian Arabs fear rising violence against them in the Arab and Muslim World and believe Trump will be more forceful in protecting them.
That attitude is a remnant of having lived in the Arab World under authoritarian and less than Democratic regimes which have protected Christian minorities along with secular Muslims against rising religious activism. Christian Arabs and Middle East Christians separate their politics and their religious beliefs while many Muslims believe the two are the same.
The truth is that neither Obama nor Hillary Clinton have been anything more than vocally supportive of Muslims and even less of Arabs, who represent a unique political problem involving the longstanding conflict with Israel.
Obama has done nothing to stop the rising anti-Arab movement in many American states which have adopted legislation to prevent American citizens from criticizing Israel.
Hillary Clinton has even spoken out forcefully against Israel’s critics, singling out the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement which seeks to prevent discrimination against Muslim and Christian Arabs by Israel.
Clinton even sent a letter in July 2015 to pro-Israel billionaire Haim Saban, who has funded her candidacy, urging action against BDS.
Recent disclosures of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary of State show that Abedin and her staff acted as go-betweens to accept funds from the Government of Bahrain during the height of the Arab Spring and complaints that Bahrain was oppressing its citizens.
Bahrain met with Clinton after giving the Clinton Foundation more than $32 million in donations.
Clearly, Hillary Clinton does not really care about Democracy in the Arab World or Democracy for Arabs. And despite her claims of supporting the “two-state” solution for Palestine, her actions have shown no progress towards that end.
What does Trump represent for Muslims?
Despite his sometimes incendiary rhetoric, which some explain away as political inexperience, Trump represents the ultimate in change. Trump has already changed the Republican Party and thrown it into disarray. Some of the most anti-Arab Republican officials have refused to support Trump.
To some, Hillary Clinton represents a continuation of the status quo. To others, Trump represents change.
Under both, Arab Muslims and American Arabs can expect to see themselves treated the same then as they are treated now. Victimized. Discriminated against. And rhetoric that is often empty.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)