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5 ways American Muslims should counter Trump’s narrative

November 24, 2015
Trump said Muslims would be signed up at "different places," adding, "It's all about management." — AFP
Trump said Muslims would be signed up at "different places," adding, "It's all about management." — AFP

Ever wondered how Hitler was elected to power? Ever thought how a democratically elected individual could discriminate so much against a certain minority?

Well, now you have a refresher course in history if you are seeking answers to those questions. We have a modern day individual whose discriminatory narrative, and popularity in the polls, both just keep rising.

Recently, Trump suggested that all Muslims in the US be registered in a special database. He not only wants to shut down all mosques in the US, but in his own words, “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems,” to have checks and balances on Muslims.

Let’s put things in context: to be fair, if an average Muslim, say in Pakistan or Egypt, makes over-generalisations about Jews, then it is not justified of Muslims to expect that a person born in a far flung valley of Utah or Arkansas not generalise things about Muslims.

But, when a wealthy, well-traveled individual dreaming to one day lead the United States starts making generalised claims, how much sense that makes, I leave to you.

The question really is: in such circumstances, what can the American Muslims do to counter not only Trump, but most importantly, the 'Trump mindset' that is spreading beyond his own personality as well?

1. Fight back as “Americans”

In my opinion, American Muslims need to start looking beyond themselves and understand that there are others who’re being affected by this thinking too.

Why counter this narrative alone when you can easily team up with Mexicans, who Trump has viciously attacked, and other affected groups to take your message of peace, tolerance and inclusive society to the next level?

Moreover, Trump is not only attacking Muslims and the Mexicans but the entire value system upon which the US was created. Thus, it is important that any effort of protests, etc. be done alongside people of all ethnicities and races.

An average white American needs to realise that you’re fighting for his rights too, because if Trump divides you on religious grounds today, tomorrow, another could attempt to divide even the White Americans on some other grounds.

Since an ideology of hatred is a threat to the entire country and not just Muslims, therefore it doesn’t require a “Muslim” but an “American” response to this challenge.

Write letters to your Congressmen and keep calling your Senators until they bring a bill to the House condemning the current state of affairs. Remember: they’re accountable for your tax money… that’s how they get their salary.

2. Make it an inter-faith issue

Perhaps the group which has paid the highest cost of such a hateful ideology is the Jews under the Holocaust. Increase outreach to Jewish, Christian and other religious groups; leaders of which could prove to be instrumental in condemning this kind of thinking which is today affecting Muslims.

All religious groups should understand that it is only the cycle of history that the mid-20th century saw an anti-Jewish rhetoric and that 2015 is experiencing an anti-Muslim rhetoric.

If all religious groups won’t condemn such hatred today, who will the cycle of history turn on next? Let’s shun it before it haunts us all.

3. Don’t take a “Clash of Civilizations” approach

In my conversations with many Muslims all over the world, I have seen that two things have been common in every country: an inclination towards self-victimisation and a never-ending identity crisis.

Somehow, to believe that the entire world is conspiring against Muslims is considered an essential part of one’s identity. In reality, to be fair, Muslims are not only victims but also perpetrators of promoting “clash of civilizations”.

Perhaps, it is time to remind ourselves that God’s message of peace and global justice was revealed not only for the Muslims but the entire humanity. Thus, it is important to mourn as much a tragedy in Africa as the loss of lives in the Middle East.

The aim of Muslims should not only be to end discrimination against themselves, but to fight for justice for every oppressed group around the world.

And, this precisely sets ground for my next point: globalise the seriousness of Trump's ideology.

4. Call an International conference against discrimination

With extreme right-wing ideologies gaining popularity all over the world, it is the right time for world leaders to do this.

The conference should not only attract global political leaders, but also social media executives, like Mark Zuckerbeg, and top corporate and philanthropic individuals, like Bill Gates, who can play a significant role in devising innovative strategies to shun hatred.

5. Help Trump find what's missing in his life

Apart from a psychiatrist, there’s also a dire need for a historian, who can let him know the benefits of immigrants, to the progress of the United States and the importance of living in harmony (or lack thereof) throughout history.

Perhaps the only thing common between Trump and myself is our love for jokes. But really, I am serious in my point above.

Before he introduces a database for registering Muslims, one of us should also send him a database of the achievements of Mexicans and Muslims living in the US. That’s the real database he should be looking at.

And finally…

We need to stop acting defensive or even apologetic.

There’s nothing wrong that the immigrants and Muslims have done, so there’s nothing that we should be fearful of. If anything, it should be Trump who should be guilty of challenging American values.

But countering this is not possible until we are all united. This is a fight between the more than 99 per cent moderates and less than one per cent extremists; victory can only go one way.