Sometime in January, the body of a Muslim youth, Ben Keita, 18, was found hanging from a tree in Seattle, Washington, suspended 50 feet above ground. The police rushed to a conclusion that the young man took his own life, only to reverse its decision later as new evidence emerged that the Black American Muslim boy was lynched. The FBI is now involved in the investigation.
BuzzFeed News reported that four mosques have been burnt to the ground within seven weeks. Starting January 7, Islamic centres in Austin and Victoria, Texas, in Tampa, Florida and in Bellevue, Washington were all set ablaze — approximately a 30-minute drive from where Keita was found hanging from a tree.
Late February, an assailant opened fire and killed an Indian man at a bar in Kansas thinking they were Iranians. “Get out of my country!” he yelled as he opened fire.
The main target in the rapidly growing number of hate crimes are Muslims, but the victims are of various racial backgrounds, origins and nationalities.
In an interview with teleSUR, Hatem Abudayyeh, head of Chicago’s Arab American Action Network explained, President Donald “Trump and the other racists and white supremacists in his government are extremely dangerous, not only to Arabs and Muslims, but also to immigrants in general, black people, workers, women, and all other marginalised and oppressed communities in the US.”
“I believe that Trump wants to truly ‘make America white again’,” he said.
There can be no escaping the fact that the growing wave of hate crimes against Muslims is not a transient phenomenon, like those often associated with wars and other political events. In reality, American Muslims are now suffering the wrath of racism, prejudice and public paranoia by both government and society at large.
Unlike the hatred for the Russians and the communist ‘red menace’ throughout the 1950s until the end of the Cold War, American Muslims are much more vulnerable. Their identities cannot be hidden, nor can they escape these unbearable situations.
Afraid and confused, many American Muslims find themselves on the defensive, forced to apologise for the sins of terrorism which they did not instigate or ever participate in. This chorus of apologists was set in motion after the September 11 attacks, which was followed by thousands of hate-crimes across the country.
But what exactly are American Muslims apologising for? What sin have they committed as a collective, to be pushed into this wretched state of being — having to demonstrate their humanity, defend their religion and distance themselves from every act of violence, even if only’ allegedly’ committed by a Muslim anywhere in the world? Long before the malicious ‘Muslim Ban’ was first approved by the Trump Administration — banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days — Muslims in the US have always, to varying degrees, been embattled: Collectively demonised, racially profiled by government agencies and targeted in numerous hate crimes by ordinary Americans.
The fact is the American hate story of Muslims precedes September 11, 2001, and prior to the US war on Iraq in 1990-91. The politically-motivated discourse that associates the anti-Muslim sentiment with the advent of Trump is not entirely true. Trump’s fearmongering has certainly contributed to the horrific phenomenons — one which was spawned under various administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, and increased by right and liberal pundits alike.
The seemingly ‘sudden’ realisation by various liberal groups that American Muslims are mistreated in their own country is hardly convincing, but rather patronising, for the cause of the defenceless Muslim is now being used as a political tool, with Democrats and others attempting to undermine the deplorable actions of their Republican rivals.
But where was this ‘love’ for Muslims and the recognition of their humanity during the administrations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton? Each of these ex-presidents have a horrific legacy of violence and discrimination against Muslim countries and Muslims everywhere.
In a landmark study released in March 2015, the Washington-based group, ‘Physicians for Social Responsibility’, showed that the US self-styled ‘war on terror’ has killed anywhere between 1.3 million to 2 million Muslims in the first ten years since the September 11 attacks. Award-winning investigative journalist, Nafeez Ahmad, concluded that at least 4 million Muslims have been killed by the US since 1990.
Yet, we are meant to pretend that the issue is merely that of a racist, obnoxious President and that the pinnacle of American violence against Muslims can be reduced to a 90-day travel ban.
It is important that American Muslim youth understand this well — their fight for equality and human rights in their country is not a manifestation of some Democratic Party’s political game. Democratic administrations have historically been at the forefront of wars and mistreatment of Muslims, abroad and locally. Those aspiring to be ‘good Muslims’ and ‘not all Muslims are terrorists’, can only hope for second-class status. But those who aspire for true equality and justice ought to remember the words of American revolutionary, Assata Shakur: “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of people who were oppressing them.”
Those who have done the oppressing constantly try to redefine the nature of the struggle of those whom they oppress.
The coloniser, the oppressor, the invader, is always blind to his crimes, seeing only the violent reaction — however minuscule — of the people he subjugates.
According to the ‘New America Foundation’, alleged jihadists killed 94 people in the US between 2005 and 2015.
Yet, the government-media-driven fearmongering, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam discourse has made terrorism the leading ‘fear’ among Americans, according to a major national survey in 2016
Solidarity just what the doctor ordered
American Muslims should not attempt to seek validation for their rights and identity from American liberal media, politicians and groups — which have all proved futile anyway. Instead, they should seek solidarity with other targeted and victimised groups forced to live in fear. It is solidarity that they need, not constant apology for who they are.
American Muslims should seek true, strategic solidarity with African American groups (millions of whom are Muslims), Latinos and Native Americans. These groups have a shared history of pain that has often overlapped. Besides, the American Muslim identity was born and moulded in the heart of a painful struggle, from the moment a Muslim slave took his first step into the US, to this day.
The protracted nature of their struggle requires intellectual courage, political unity, intersectionality and solidarity, all articulated in purely revolutionary thinking.
In his book, Wretched of the Earth, one of the 20th century’s most powerful revolutionary voices, Frantz Fanon, wrote, “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.”
For this generation of American Muslims, this is their moment: to discover and fulfil their mission, to define and assert who they are as the descendants of slaves, immigrants and refugees — the three main building blocks of America.
If not, they will continue to foolishly scramble for validation from those who have oppressed them in the first place.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include Searching Jenin, The Second Palestinian Intifada and his latest My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.