A Humans of New York post came up on my Facebook feed a couple of days ago. A woman told us she wasn’t a racist but “There’s something going on with the Muslims…There’s a lot we don’t know about.” Her rhetoric can be compared to the kind of things that were said about the Jewish population by Germans before the holocaust. Less seriously, we can compare it to the kind of rhetoric often aimed at the X-Men – vilified for the actions of a few, suspected of foul play simply because of who they are. The President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed “Muslim-register” only increases those X-Men comparisons. The proposed register has its foundations in the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Supposedly it was a way for the US to keep track of all non-citizens entering the country for the safety of the American people, but tellingly every country on the NSEERS list (bar North Korea) has a majority Muslim population.
The NSEERS system was a catastrophic failure. Over 80,000 men and boys were registered and monitored by the system. A sense of fear was spread throughout the Muslim and Arab communities. Attacks motivated by Islamophobia increased. And yet NSEERS didn’t result in a single terrorism conviction.
Let that sink in. Over 80,000 people forcibly registered. Not a single conviction.
Now the incoming President has made it clear he’ll be targeting Muslim immigrants specifically. One Trump supporter even went so far as to say that mass Japanese American internment camps during WWII are a “precedent” for the proposed register.
It’s a horrifying prospect. As a Muslim I cannot stress exactly how terrifying something like this is. I can’t even begin to imagine the sense of fear my fellow Muslims across the pond must be feeling.
In late March of this year, a poll (YouGov/HuffPost) found that 51% of Americans support banning Muslims from entering the US. We British know the Americans to be a particularly patriotic bunch. Muslim Americans are no less patriotic than their white counterparts and yet now they must contest with the fact a majority of their own people don’t want them in the country. They must go into work and look into the eyes of their colleagues and wonder which of them voted Trump to be their next President. We begin to learn about our history from a young age. If we learn any moral from looking into the past, it is that we mustn’t repeat the mistakes of our ancestors in the future. Yet humanity seems determined not to learn from our mistakes.
I sincerely hope Trump decides not to go ahead with the proposed register his supporters so clearly want him to. But in the interim, whilst the speculation spreads, the only people I can think of is the Muslims of America and the people in Muslim-majority countries who may have looked towards the supposed land of the free with the American Dream lodged in their minds.
And my heart bleeds for them.
(Image courtesy of the Huffington Post UK)