White House Islamophobia Continues to Rear its Ugly Head—Trump Tells Democratic Congresswomen: “Go Back to Where You Came From”
By John Mason/Arab America Contributing Writer
President Trump has tweeted an “invitation” to four Congresswomen of color to leave the country. Two of them just happen to be Muslim, giving an Islamophobic tinge to an
already xenophobic and racist message. His message is directed at his base of white American nationalists and others who support him regardless of what comes out of his mouth. Republicans have mostly remained silent in the face of an implicit Trump threat to undermine their reelection possibilities.
Take Your Pick: Islamophobia, Racism or Xenophobia
President Trump has told two Muslims, one Hispanic and an African American to leave their beloved country and return to their homes. These just happened to be American women whose homes are already in America. Even more outrageous, these women are elected members of the U.S. Congress.
Trump’s tweets directed against these elected representatives were intended to build on Democratic party tensions, but in effect drew the Democratic caucus together in
opposition to him. By jumping into a family feud among Democrats, the President asked these four progressive women rhetorically, “Why don’t they go back and fix the totally broken places from which they came.”
Not mentioning them by name, Trump targeted the Democratic caucus well-known freshman women of so-called color: representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.). Furthermore, he accused these congresswomen as coming from “countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and corrupt and inept anywhere in the world…now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”
Three of these representatives were born in the U.S, while Omar, a Somali refugee came to the U.S. as an immigrant with her family in the early 1990s. Omar and Tlaib
are Muslims, two of three serving in the Congress. Trump continued to berate these four female representatives, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came…Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, responded to Trump, expressing that his …” xenophobic comments…[reaffirmed his plan to make] America great again.”
The Squad of Four—Vocal Critics of Trump—The four comprising the “squad of four” – Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar – have been among the most vocal critics of Trump, but also of their own Democratic Party on the issue of immigration. Tlaib called the President’s immigration agenda a “dangerous ideology.” Omar agreed, saying “I believe, as an immigrant, I probably love this country more than anyone that is naturally born.”
President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry—a brief Recount
Donald Trump’s Islamophobia goes back a while. In 2008 during Barack Obama’s campaign for and throughout Obama’s presidency. Trump asserted that the first black president was ineligible to be president because he was not a natural-born citizen of the U.S., required by article 2 of the Constitution. Rather, he would have had Obama born in Kenya, the home of his father, rather than in Hawaii, his mother’s home, where he was actually born. The issue became known as ‘birtherism,’ which also underscored Trump’s anti-Muslim stance and his racism—all in one sweep.
Trump started the so-called “birther movement” against Barack Obama in an attempt to paint him as a Muslim born outside the U.S., thus making him ineligible for the Presidency. In November 2015 Trump claimed he had seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attack. Shortly after, he demanded a “…total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” In March 2016, Trump declared that “Islam hates us.”
An earlier supporter of Trump and later national security advisor, retired general Flynn, rendered this opinion about Islam: “I don’t see Islam as a religion. I see it as a political ideology… [that] will mask itself as a religion globally because, especially in the west, especially in the United States, because it can hide behind and protect itself behind what we call freedom of religion.” In another speech, he called Islam a “malignant cancer.” In February he tweeted that, “fear of Muslims is rational.”
The current national security to the President, John Bolton, expressed anti-Muslim sentiments long before his affiliation with the President. He wrote that “Barack Hussein
Obama” [is pursuing the] “implementation of soft sharia: the quiet and piecemeal implementation of Islamic laws that subjugate non-Muslims.”
Republicans—nowhere to be found?
The Republicans in Congress have been very quiet as Trump gives the squad of four congresswomen their marching orders. Their silence suggested they either agreed with him or have grown fatigued by his growing control and thus not inclined to show their disagreement. That they so openly accept his Islamophobia, however, regardless of politics, makes one wonder about their moral and ethical integrity.
A positive outcome of this “Go back where you came from” moment is that the Democratic party seems to have rallied in its effort to make Donald Trump a one-term
(References: Peter Beinart, Forward, “Trump stoked the Islamophobia that led to the New Zealand Mass Murder, March 18, 2019; Brian Klaus, Washington Post, “A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim Bigotry,” March 25, 2019; Brian Quilantan and David Cohen, Politico, “Trump tells Democratic Congresswomen: “Go back to where you came from,” July 14, 2019; Isac Stanley-Becker, Washington Post, “Republicans are quiet as Trump urges minority Congresswomen to leave the country,” July 15, 2019.)
John Mason, an anthropologist specializing in Arab culture and its diverse populations, is the author of recently-published LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, 2017, New Academia Publishing.