On Sunday, a young woman and her friend were verbally assaulted at Kerbey Lane Cafe for appearing Muslim. Their story was quickly spread online via friends and in no time it was national news. It showed the power of social media to highlight injustice and even to attain some resolution (the CEO personally apologized), but it was also just another example of unchecked Islamophobia in America.
It is not surprising that some jerk out might believe every meme he sees or everything he hears on Fox News, but what was most disturbing for the women was the silence of the other patrons and restaurant staff. Right-wing commentators and politicians beating the drum of Islamophobia have contributed in an increasingly hostile environment for Muslim Americans and it is time to speak up.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” – MLK Jr.
On the same day this man at Kerbey Lane told two young women to “go back to Saudi Arabia,” Marco Rubio asked for evidence that “we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims.” Well, there has been plenty in Texas alone this year, but just one day later Donald Trump delivered all the evidence one could ask for by calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
GOP candidates pounced on his fascist remarks, but many of their own has merely been more subtle. The dog whistle has granted them the benefit of the doubt to avoid taking any responsibility for the actions of their parroters whether it be attacks on abortion clinics or Muslims. Denying a distinction between Syrian refugees and ISIS isn’t a Trump special. Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott exploited safety concerns to rile up conservatives by threatening religious groups who vowed to help resettle Syrian refugees in the state.
It was only last year that “religious liberty” was the mantra of Conservatives who have all but seem to have forgotten those words since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, and the topic du jour moved from marginalizing the LGBT community to Muslims. Right-wing conservatives are radicalizing and beginning to look and sound eerily similar to those that they fear the most. Jerry Fallwell Jr.’s calls for gun owners to get carry permits so they could, “end those Muslims before they walked in,” is not an isolated incident.
Trump is leading the polls for the GOP nomination because his supporters say “he speaks his mind,” regardless of whether he speaks the truth. He preys on weak individual’s fear of otherness and stereotypes, and he has been successful.
It is hard to see his GOP contenders’ claims that he has gone too far this time, as anything more than self-serving. For months, the Party’s establishment candidates have tried to either take him down by direct attacks, or mimic his success with less bombast. Party officials even circulated a memo telling candidates they needed to be more like Trump, “authentic, independent, direct, firm,” and “grab onto the best elements of [his]anti-Washington populist agenda.”
Unfortunately for the GOP (and America?) the Donald still leads the polls with his mini-me Ted Cruz peeking over his shoulder. So, we may have approached the point of no return for GOP, but it is critical that the silent majority speak up against blatant discrimination, both when they see or hear it, and at the polls. The President and the Democrats running to replace him have made it clear that we are a nation of religious and ethnic diversity, and we should not succumb to ISIS’ plan to pit Americans against American Muslims. The 1st Amendment is our greatest weapon for protecting civil society, because if we have to revert to the 2nd, we have already lost the battle of hearts and minds for which no war is successful without.