Trump Not an Outlier in US Policy Towards Muslims
Arun Kundnani, the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, says after 9/11, we rounded up thousands of Muslims within the United States and deported them simply because they are Muslim
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
After the San Bernardino shootings last week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced that he wants to bar all Muslims from entering the United States. This comes after his statement about how if he becomes president he would require Muslim-Americans to carry ID cards. Let’s have a look at what he had to say.
DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
PERIES: These remarks instigated a fierce backlash against Trump when everyone, from Hillary Clinton to the entire Congress, castigated him for his comments, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan. They felt his comments did not reflect American values. Oh, but does it? In fact, it might even be reinforced by policy.
That’s the question we’ll take up with our next guest, Arun Kundnani. Arun is joining us from New York, and he’s the author of The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. Arun is a lecturer at New York University. His articles include The Belief System of Islamophobia. Have a look, we’ll put a link up on our site to some of his work. Arun, thank you so much for joining us.
ARUN KUNDNANI: Thank you very much for having me.
PERIES: So Arun, just recently on CNN in a discussion, you said what Donald Trump is doing is making explicit what already is implicit in policy in this country. What did you mean by that?
KUNDNANI: Well, if you look at the rhetoric of Trump it corresponds to many policies that have already been in place for some time. [Inaud.] that we already rounded up thousands of Muslims within the United States and deported them simply because they are Muslim. We already have put every mosque in New York City under surveillance by the New York Police Department simply because they are mosques. We’ve had politicians across the board asking that no Syrian should be able to come as a refugee, just because they were from Syria. We already had 1.2 million people on the terrorism watch list.
So you know, I think for the, for the mainstream political culture, denouncing Trump as, you know, somehow saying stuff that is beyond the pale for the mainstream isn’t quite right. He’s not an outlier. He’s–what he’s doing is, as I’ve said, just making explicit what has already been implicit in our mainstream political culture. He is a symptom of, of a widespread problem of Islamophobia.
PERIES: And reinforced by the applause he gets right after he makes that statement. What are the underlying issues that make this okay in the United States?
KUNDNANI: I think we have been sold a story by so-called experts now for 20 years, which is that there is some kind of inherent connection between Islam and terrorism. And that argument is made in many different ways. But essentially it boils down to that, that claim. And the claim is obviously false. And so we have created a new kind of racism in the United States directed at Muslims. It comes out of a, obviously a much longer history of racism in the United States.
PERIES: What makes it okay for this kind of rhetoric to be a part of the public discourse in this country?
KUNDNANI: Well, a number of things. I mean, first the, if you look at liberal political discourse as well, here, you know, we–we have seen this kind of spectacle over the last few days of mainstream politicians denouncing Trump as if he is the only example of Islamophobia in U.S. political culture.
Well, really the message coming from people like Hillary Clinton, or someone like Ted Cruz, is Trump–the sin of Donald Trump is to actually say outright stuff that they have been implementing for some time. You know, we–we already have all the, all these policies in place. So yeah, I think, I think the liberal side of the political spectrum has its own responsibility here. The Democratic party, the Obama administration. When you look at the way in which most liberals have actually criticized Trump in the last few days what they’ve said is, don’t say that, because that stuff plays badly in the Middle East. And so it doesn’t help, because it means that we’ll have more terrorism. Right, so it’s an entirely pragmatic argument rather than an argument on principle that we oppose racism.
And the pragmatic argument kind of plays into Trump’s narrative. Because what it’s doing is, is assuming that if someone in America just says the wrong thing, you know, suddenly a whole load of new terrorists are going to exist in the Middle East. Which is exactly feeding Trump’s narrative of scary Muslims, right.
So I think that this is a very broad problem that has been enabled across the political spectrum. We now see that there are all kinds of conservative think tanks that have actively funded propaganda campaigns to promote an anti-Islam narrative for the last ten years or so, at least. And we know that, you know, that that narrative resonates for many people in the United States because of America’s long [inaud.] history of racism.
PERIES: Obviously needs a deeper discussion. So let’s continue our discussion in segment two.
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