How Donald Trump Made Us Muslims
Islam has always been my religion, but only recently has it become my identity
We are talked about, fretted about, debated. For some, we are a worry; for others, a cause. We have our own perpetually trending hashtag, which tends to make me, and us, nervous (#Muslims). We are, for better or worse, a “we.” It wasn’t always like this. It happened over time.
For most of my life, I saw myself as an American who happened to be Muslim, rather than a Muslim who happened to be American. But now — almost imperceptibly and without quite wanting it to — I find my identity narrowing. I suppose I have Donald Trump to thank partly for this. From the very start of his campaign, Trump, like so many of his fellow right-wing populists, seemed preoccupied with the “Muslim threat.”
The attacks of September 11 began a process that continues to this day, in which Muslims are categorized as “good” or “bad,” either “loyal” or vaguely suspect. Without really meaning to, Trump has helped to salvage the legacy of President George W. Bush. Today, Bush is hailed as a great statesman for his words of solidarity in the aftermath of the attacks, saying, for instance, that “Islam is peace” and insisting that intimidation against Muslim citizens “should not and… will not stand in America.”
But at the same time, Bush led a different sort of rhetorical charge that was considerably less magnanimous. You were either “with us or against us,” he said. Bush was addressing a global audience, but the formulation was interpreted by many American Muslims as a not so subtle demand to affirm our commitment to a never-ending war on terror that Muslims and non-Muslims alike now understand was inherently flawed. From then on, Muslims were asked to condemn every terror attack committed in their name, as if they themselves, merely by virtue of being born Muslim, somehow bore collective responsibility. It began to seem like no matter what we did or didn’t say, we would always somehow be implicated in the acts of others.
Our opponents attack us as Muslims, but our supporters also defend us as Muslims.
Under Trump — who famously said, “I think Islam hates us” — Islamophobia has intensified…