Trump’s trickle-down hate takes root locally
Hate may have found a home in New Haven on Sunday when a fire burned through the first and second floor of the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven, rendering it uninhabitable. Authorities have said that an “incendiary device” was used to start the blaze, meaning someone purposefully tried to burn the mosque down.
We do not know at this time if bias was the motive, but here is what we do know.
This incident happened at the end of the first week of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting for Muslims — a time of self-sacrifice, charity and family gatherings. Fortunately, only the imam was at the mosque at the time, but if the blaze had broken out later that evening it is likely that dozens of people including small children would have been there for nighttime prayers and breaking their fast. If reports regarding the scope of the fire are true, there would have been much more than property damage.
Islamophobia has been a constant presence in Muslim life in America since 9/11. Nearly 20 years later, a generation of Muslims have grown up experiencing bullying in the school yard, discrimination at work and violence ranging from women’s head-scarves being pulled off in the street to deadly assaults. However, data gathered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ shows that coinciding with the candidacy of Donald Trump for president, incidents against mosques ratcheted upwards. There were 78 instances of mosques being targeted — counting arson, vandalism and other destruction — in 2015. By comparison, 2014 saw just 20 such incidents. By the end of 2017, CAIR recorded nine mosques being attacked each month.
As the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump proclaimed loudly, “I think Islam hates us,” and said (falsely and repeatedly) that he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers. Upon assuming office, he enacted through an Executive Order the “Muslim Ban” on immigration. The fig leaf of national security belied the fact that the seven countries targeted were predominantly Muslim and in 2015 had accounted for the largest sources of Muslim immigration to the United States. The measure was clearly designed to reduce Muslim immigration.
In his book “Understanding Ethnic Violence,” MIT professor Roger Peterson points to a toxic brew of emotions — fear, rage and resentment — as motivating factors for individual perpetrators of ethnic violence. According to Peterson’s theory, observable structural changes generate an emotional mechanism that in turn heighten the saliency of a desire (safety, vengeance, status) that promote ethnic violence and conflict.
U.S. participation in successive Gulf Wars, the inexcusable and horrific World Trade Center attacks, the war in Afghanistan, and ISIS terrorism have collectively primed Americans to fear Muslims. Whereas previous presidents distinguished militants from ordinary Muslims, the Trumpian view places us all in one basket, and his views coincide with the administration’s assertion that non-white undesirable immigrants are invading the country. Under these conditions, the desire for security is heightened and a house of worship with its tall minarets becomes a visible target.
The unleashed alt-right domestic terrorists who burn mosques also pose a threat to members of other religious minorities. The suspect in last month’s shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, in which one person was killed and several people wounded, admitted in his manifesto that he had set fire to a mosque in Escondido, Calif. Ancient hatreds and resentment of Jews , perceived as being farthest up the ethnic status hierarchy, result in violence and result in the cries heard in Charlottesville of “Jews will not replace us.”
Richard Spencer, a chief organizer of that “Unite the Right” rally, acknowledged in an interview this week with the The Atlantic that President Trump was the catalyst for the white nationalist movement. “It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way,” said Spencer in an article titled “An Oral History of Trump’s Bigotry.” “He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible.”
With the apparent infiltration of the Republican Party at the national level by white supremacists now seemingly complete, it is now up to GOP elected officials and party activists in Connecticut to vocally and publicly make clear whether they endorse Trumpism and its policy of trickle-down hate or if they reject it. As a Republican, I would hope that our party does indeed speak out against the alt-right ideology and its xenophobic undertones.
Despite our fervent prayers for peace and understanding, the burning of the mosque in New Haven will not likely be the last manifestation of violence against Muslims living in Connecticut.
I do not want to attend another vigil in solidarity with victims of bias-motivated violence. Rather, I would like the various groups that make up the fabric of this great state including our political leaders to come together in times of joy and celebrate the humanity we all share in common. For that to happen we all deserve to know the true beliefs of the men and women who represent us under the Republican Party’s banner.
As the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump proclaimed loudly, “I think Islam hates us,” and said (falsely and repeatedly) that he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers.
Residents gathered Thursday at a vigil following a fire at the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven.