Since he joined the field of candidates, Donald Trump has been saying offensive, outlandish, and ridiculous things as a part of the media circus that is his campaign. Last week, Trump said something that crossed a line. Suddenly, Republicans leaders across the party were stepping up to call him out and to say that his beliefs were not “conservative” or even “American,” and to distance themselves from his bigotry. It seems that, for the Republican establishment, though clearly not those voters who support him, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country was taking it too far.
It was almost enough to make the Republican party look moderate. Almost.
Donald Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, and the swift and vocal response from leaders in the Republican party is preferable to silence or, worse, agreement. But we have to look no farther than our own Texas legislature to see that Trump, while perhaps more vocal in his positions, is by no means the only Republican peddling in islamophobia.
According to the Texas Freedom Network (TFN)’s review of the bills filed this year during legislative session, at least eight bills were filed in the House and the Senate to “protect” the state against the implementation or use of Sharia law – and this wasn’t the first time they’ve tried this.
As the Austin Chronicle reported this spring, the first such law was filed by former Representative Leo Berman of Tyler in response to a story he heard on the radio about the supposed implementation of Sharia law in Michigan.
To these legislators’ credit, there is a tribunal in Irving where members of the religious community can go to sort out family issues according to the tenets of their Islamic faith, as many religious people of other faiths also do. The Chronicle points out that similar tribunals have already been in existence for Catholics and Jews.
For elected officials so quick to brag about the influence of Christian values on their decisions as public and private citizens, these Texas Republicans are having an awful hard time understanding why Muslims in Texas might want to do the same thing.
Representative Molly White is, quite possibly, the worst offender of them all. On Texas Muslim Capitol Day, White issued a statement on Facebook that ignited a firestorm and prompted Speaker Joe Straus to weigh in and push back against her harmful stance. Her post explained that while she would not be in the office to meet with Muslim constituents, she had left explicit orders for her staff’s potential interactions which included asking visitors to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups,” and “…publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
“We will see how long they stay in my office,” she added.
More alarming still, these anti-Islam crusaders in the Texas legislature are not unique. As the Chronicle reported, these laws are a part of a push at state legislatures across the country to single out and demonize Islam and its American adherents.
This hateful narrative has terrifying results.
While the numbers of hate crimes against other groups have been falling in recent years, the incidence of hate crimes against Muslims (or those who are assumed to be Muslim) is on the rise. Since the attacks in Paris, mosques have been vandalized and even set on fire. Muslim Americans are not likely to to see an end to this ever-present threat of violence any time soon – especially with politicians like Molly White fueling the fire.
It is important to call out Trump’s hateful speech, and helpful to raise up the backlash he is receiving from those in his own party. But we cannot forget that for today’s Republicans, islamophobia is nothing new – it’s already a part of the playbook.