WASHINGTON (RNS) — Most racists, especially in more sophisticated circles, have learned to tamp down their views because they have found it expedient not to be seen for what they are.
President Trump, however, does not hide what he really believes. In questioning the nationality of the first black president, openly backing neo-Nazis (and accepting their praise and support), maligning Latinos, using a racial slur for Native Americans during a ceremony honoring them or denigrating Muslims, our president makes no attempt to hide his disdain for or targeting of certain groups of people.
On Wednesday (Nov. 29), Trump lobbed yet another salvo in his ongoing war against American Muslims (or all Muslims, for that matter). This time, he retweeted three vile anti-Muslim propaganda videos from Jayda Fransen, a leader in the far-right group Britain First.
By way of background, the British ultranationalist group’s name was shouted by the killer of Labour member of Parliament Jo Cox when he shot her before last year’s Brexit referendum. Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, was convicted last year of “religiously aggravated harassment” against a woman wearing hijab in front of her young children.
According to The New York Times, at least one of the videos did not show a “Muslim migrant” as claimed, while the other two showed incidents in Syria and Egypt in 2013 without any context on the political unrest in those countries.
Most of Trump’s statements about Muslims sound like the ranting of the lonely conspiracy theorist at the end of the bar railing against the government, foreigners and “globalists.” Asked what evidence he has for his outlandish claims, he answers, “I read it on the internet,” with no further citations apparently needed.
But in our case, the lonely conspiracy theorist is our commander in chief, and he has tens of millions of followers who believe in his vision and believe his words unquestioningly.
This is the truly frightening aspect of the president, and this is what we have to push back against. And what makes his tweets so disturbing is not just what he says, but where he gets his information from.
Last week, he tweeted out a link to an article touting all of his so-called accomplishments from a website called Magapill.com. The website also contained articles that included a flowchart detailing how Jews and the Vatican are conspiring to control the world.
He has cited various articles from Breitbart.com and Infowars.com, the latter of which famously declared that the government was putting chemicals in the water to “turn the friggin’ frogs gay.”
The president of the United States is setting policy and making public statements using fallacious and incendiary ideas from extremist and hate-driven sources. The troubling thing is that our president actually identifies with these views.
Not only do they appear to be his genuinely held beliefs, but he is hardly damaged politically or otherwise when he broadcasts his thoughts. With every slander, every invective and every bile-filled retweet, he energizes his base and enjoys the support of a silently complicit Republican-controlled Congress.
What will it take for our Republican leaders in Congress to finally stand up for their constituents, many of whom are members of the very groups the president vilifies? What will it take for them to finally say, “While I respect the office of the president, I cannot allow the president’s statements to trample on the values that our nation is founded on?”
Words — and tweets — have consequences. We need only look at the alarming rise in hate crime statistics in this country for proof that inciting hatred leads to incited violence. The president’s words are dangerous because they lead to distrust, fear and violence.
They are dangerous to the very ideals of our nation.
(Salam Al-Marayati is president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)