The Dangers of Trump’s Bigotry
By: James McLellan
There’s (hopefully) no doubt in the minds of most people that Donald Trump’s rhetoric towards Muslim Americans is dangerous to say the least. Trump, throughout his campaign, has been leaving a trail of inconsistencies regarding his views on most policy issues. One thing about his campaign that has been consistent is his political appeal: being a demagogue. Using prejudice and discrimination against groups to gain the support of others, Donald Trump has been indisputably employing tactics to divide the nation. The classic example many journalists have been using to prove this has been the March Trump Rally in Chicago, in which several anti-Trump protesters swarmed the inside of the UIC Pavilion and the streets around it. The event caused Trump to cancel the rally, creating an eruption of contentious confrontation as the Trump supporters and protesters argued, brawled, and clashed for hours. In particular, heated confrontations between Muslim protesters and non-Muslim supporters added to the disarray. Though it is not entirely clear which side sparked the chaos first, the fact remains: the rhetoric and aura of Donald Trump’s campaign has promoted a culture of divisiveness among the American people, particularly against Muslims. Though Trump’s lack of concern for ‘political correctness’ and his outspoken bigotry have been topics of discussion since he first announced he would be running for office, his status as the presumptive Republican nominee fosters a new discussion regarding the true impact of his ‘unfiltered’ remarks.
Throughout history, several – belonging to various faiths and creeds – have relied on tactics to divide the people they address in order to fuel their own success and power. One person who should definitely be included in that category is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Taking responsibility for hundreds of bombings and attacks in Iraq following the US invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi took advantage of the destabilized Iraqi government (previously under the control of Saddam Hussein) by pursuing radical, violent efforts to trigger sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shi’a populations as well as to inspire an insurgency movement against the US Military presence in Iraq. Though he was killed in a US led military operation in 2006, the prevailing rift that Zarqawi reinforced among the two Muslim groups in Iraq created the environment around which ISIS would later gain its power. Though this account I am providing skims over several major details of the conflict, it is widely accepted that the efforts Abu Musab al-Zarqawi used to divide the people – using religious differences to create a quasi- civil war in Iraq – eventually became the foundation for the relatively recent growth of ISIS. Now the group is considered to be the most dangerous terrorist group in the world, wielding – quite literally – an army of followers throughout Iraq and Syria. They would not have the support and power they have without the help of the religious discrimination and divisiveness they promote.
I am not making the case that Donald Trump is secretly the head of a terrorist network attempting to establish an evil, autonomous state. I am instead making the argument that his rhetoric to divide Americans based on their religious identities is dangerously similar to the old intentions of Zarqawi and the foundation for the growth of ISIS. The impact of the methods used to divide people of different religions, let alone people of different sects, is real and is fueling the conflicts that are happening right now. Whether Trump realizes it or not, his rhetoric not only mirrors the tactics terrorist groups use to gain power, but his statements also bolster the appeal these terrorists groups have on their recruits. For many of those who have come from Western countries, the appeal to join ISIS has been largely based on the Islamophobia reinforced by the Islamophobic rhetoric used by politicians in those areas. If there has already been an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the US while Trump has been campaigning, imagine the state of the country if he actually became the most powerful leader in the world. Those who attempt to divide destroy a community. Trump and ISIS are not the only ones who attempt to divide people based on religious identity, but – considering they are two of the biggest subjects of the news these days – I thought it would be interesting to compare their similarities since their power seems to stem from dividing us based on our differences.