The president’s statements, tweets and retweets that demean, vilify or ridicule Muslims are harmful to American interests in a number of ways. Whether he is denigrating a Muslim Gold Star family or retweeting anti-Muslim video clips spewed out by a British hate group, it is dangerous for our nation.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has been engaged in an international conflict with radicals who espouse a perverted version of Islam. These people constitute a tiny minority of the world’s Muslims. Islam is the second-largest religion on Earth, with about 1.8 billion members. We are allies with many Muslim-majority nations and we count on those countries for assistance in combating terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
The U.S. is currently involved in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen, all of which are Muslim-majority nations. We have troops in many other Muslim nations in the Middle East and northern Africa. It is essential to the safety of our people in harm’s way that we maintain mutual respect with the people of those countries. When our president is generally characterizing people of the Islamic faith as common terrorists, it is not only a false narrative, but it is dangerous for our service personnel on the ground.
Grateful beneficiaries of the president’s anti-Muslim activities are the very terrorist groups we are fighting. They seek to gain followers by claiming America is waging war against Islam. The president has played into that narrative with his words and actions, giving the terrorist groups ammunition to use against us in their propaganda work, not to mention the boost it gives to their recruitment efforts.
Incidentally, the anti-Muslim actions, such as the Muslim travel ban and the recent Twitter activity, are also music to the ears of American neo-Nazis. David Duke is loving all of it. In response to the president’s retweet of the British hate-group videos, Duke rejoiced, “Thank God for Trump.” I’m not so sure God would want to claim credit.
The British, our closest allies, were obviously not pleased with the high profile the retweets gave the ultra-nationalist British First group. They could not be faulted for asking why the retweets were necessary — what valid U.S. interest was served by redistributing this harmful garbage.
Of course, the United States has about 3.45 million citizens who are members of the Islamic faith. I have met many here in Idaho and they are wonderful people who love this country, their country. When people in positions of responsibility make broad generalizations casting Muslims in an unfavorable or menacing light, it is a form of undeserved religious bigotry. There is no place for that in a country that prides itself on religious freedom.
It is no wonder that hate crimes against Muslims increased more than 19 percent from 2015 to 2016. Muslims constitute about 1 percent of the U.S. population, but suffer 4 percent of the hate crimes. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center disclosed that half of the Muslims polled say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. in recent years.
It is wrong to make a segment of the American religious community fearful for their everyday safety and well-being. It violates one of the bedrock principles upon which this great nation was founded. Let’s stand up and demand that our public officials recognize and support religious freedom for all Americans, regardless of their faith or beliefs.
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Jim Jones is a former Idaho attorney general and Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. He received the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League in 1987.