Trump Is a Symptom Not the Disease
By Hamid Dabashi
December 11, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "Al
Jazeera" - On the
same day that the depth of Donald Trump's racist bigotry
hit a new low by
calling for a "total and complete" ban on Muslims
entering the United States, another
news item emerged that was overshadowed by the
circus surrounding Trump: Candice Miller, a US
Congresswoman, introduced a bill, the Visa
Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015.
If passed, the bill will suddenly cast
US citizens of Arab, Iranian, and Muslim descent as
second-class citizens in their own country - a
"legislation that will effectively create two classes of
Americans - Americans with Middle Eastern or Muslim
background, and Americans without that background".
"If you thought Donald Trump's
divisive, bigoted and blatantly racist rhetoric was just
a reflection of the silliness we always face during
primary campaigns", as one observer rightly
put it, "think again".
As world attention is focused
on Trump's racist theatrics, the House of
Representatives has just passed the bill with an
overwhelming vote of 407-19.
In a country where US-Israeli dual
citizens go and as mercenary soldiers fight to steal
more of Palestine, and their New York Times columnist
brags about that fact, if an American of Iraqi,
Syrian, Iranian, or Libyan origin as much as sets foot
in his country of birth she or he is subject to systemic
suspicion and discrimination.
These are not easy days for Muslims
who live in the US and the horrid criminal acts in San
Bernardino or Paris have very little to do with these
They are just a subterfuge. People
like Trump and his ilk did not have to wait for the San
Bernardino or Paris attacks to occur for their hatred of
Muslims or Arabs to surface. That surfacing is a sign of
much deeper troubles.
Trump is a symptom not the disease. He
is a decoy, a diversion so outrageous, so disgusting,
that it overwhelms and hides the real disease.
Trump's call to ban Muslims from
entering the US, or his earlier remark to single out and
profile Muslims, or his fellow Republican candidate Ben
Carson stating point blank that no Muslim should ever
become president, are only the most obnoxious versions
of a much more deeply rooted bigotry and racism against
Muslims that has been dominant in the US for a very long
time, but particularly since 9/11.
If you are distracted by the noxious
symptom of Trump you will forget that the democratic
front-runner Hillary Clinton only a few weeks ago
prided herself to have the entire Iranian people as
Today leading American liberals such
as Michael Tomasky, taking their cues from like-minded
Islamophobes gathered under the banner of "New
Atheists," unabashedly expose their
racism and single out Muslim Americans and order them to
prove their peaceful citizenship in the US by declaring
to Muslim Americans that "the rights you have as
Americans have to be earned, fought for". Why? By what
authority? Who died and made Michael Tomasky the judge
and the jury of Muslim Americans peaceful citizenship?
To me this fundamental abrogation of
human decency is worse than Trump's vulgarity. It is a
fundamental democratic principal that a citizen is
innocent unless proved guilty, that a citizen is
entitled to his and her inalienable rights, and need not
"earn" it or "fight for it".
But who has heard of Tomasky, busy as
people are denouncing Donald Trump - and yet to me the
roots of Trump are precisely in the pretty liberalism of
Tomasky and his ilk.
The threat the Muslims face today in
the US is not limited to fascist wannabes like Trump.
The challenge is much deeper and
firmly rooted in the political culture of a country that
began its history by the mass murder of Native
Americans, continued by the systematic slavery of
African Americans, and most recently with a stroke of a
pen ordered the US population of Japanese descent
incarcerated in concentration (internment) camps during
World War II.
Today, US Muslims are in serious
danger of the same interment camps to which Japanese
Americans were subjected to under similar circumstances.
In every generation the task of
fighting racism and bigotry shifts from one scapegoat
minority to another.
Arabs, South Asians, Iranians are
today in the noble company of Native Americans, African
Americans, Latino/Latina Americans, Asian Americans,
fighting racism and discrimination by one brand of white
supremacists or another.
Today, Muslims around the world face
not one, but two, dangerous fronts: One internal, the
Internally we are being eaten alive by
a gang of murderous mercenary cannibals who have stolen
the most sacrosanct insignia of who we are and what we
believe in and call themselves "Islamic" one thing or
There is no battle more urgent and
more noble than this moral and intellectual struggle
against the criminal thugs who call themselves the
Taliban or al-Qaeda one day, or ISIL and Boko Haram
Equally urgent is the external terror
visited upon us as we are subject to incessant
demonization by the ferocious Islamophobia of the
conservative and liberal brands, aided and abetted
systematically and financially by Zionist propaganda
machinery that wishes to silence the legitimate,
non-violent, and dignified critics of their colonial
project in Palestine (now best represented in the BDS
movement) by frightening us into complacency.
It is not accidental that we learn that
Trump's proposal to bar Muslims from entering the US
"rests on research from the Center for Security Policy,
a neo-con think-tank run by Frank Gaffney, who has a
long history of pro-Israel advocacy and has
been called 'one of US' most notorious Islamophobes:
by the Southern Poverty Law Center".
We will have to face these two fronts
simultaneously, bravely, consistently and with quiet but
determined dignity. Other Americans for generations have
fought that battle and continue to do so.
It is now our turn to stand shoulder
to shoulder with them. The historic task of defending
the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is now
squarely on our shoulders too.
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian
Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature
at Columbia University.
© 2015 Al-Jazeera English