Why Are American Muslims Not Protesting?
Washington DC: The election of Donald Trump as US President in November 2015 has suddenly energized a variety of Islamophobes and Muslim-haters in various cities in US. These are basically a set of racially oriented, anti-minority Americans. Most of them live in southern and Midwestern states, although some also live in the US east coast and west coast states.
While Trump was using Islamophobic language and anti-Muslim rhetoric in his Presidential campaign, most people expected that this was a vote-catching election gimmick, and that after he assumes the Presidency, he will tone down his rhetoric and behave with greater sense of responsibility. However, more than a month after assuming office Trump is continuing with slandering the Muslim community as a whole. Also in the very first week as President he promulgated an Executive Order banning Muslims from 7 Muslim majority countries travelling to US.
Fortunately, an overwhelming majority of Americans including well educated and majority community Americans have condemned the Trump Executive Order. Also, several senior federal judges, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court, several senior US senators and Congressmen, and prominent leaders from various social and business arenas in the US have condemned Trump’s Muslim- ban as unconstitutional, discriminatory and harmful to the American nation and the American citizens.
Most people in US had anticipated only a lukewarm protest response from the major bodies of the US government and organizations to Trump’s “Muslim travel ban”. But the astoundingly loud and large, across the board response has surprised many people. Many European nations have also condemned Trump’s proposed ban. And with the US Appeals Court abrogating the ban order, it died quickly. Even so Trump is trying to revive it.
Aside from governmental bodies the most heartening phenomenon has been the strong public protests against the Trump ban within a few days of the announcement of the order, at over a dozen major airports across continental US. Most media outlets and Television channels have held so many discussions on this subject.
On February 19, several thousand American people held a protest rally in Times Square, New York city under the banner, “I am Muslim too” . No less a dignitary than New York Mayor De Blassio addressed that rally calling for abolishing the so called “Muslim-travel-ban”.
In the midst of so much positive public energy display against the “Muslim-travel-ban” it is surprising to see that the reaction of America’s major Muslim organizations, eg Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) etal is rather lukewarm. On only a handful of occasions I have observed their leaders being in the leadership ranks of the protest rallies or in debates on major television networks like CNN or NBC, that are covering this subject prominently.
Similarly, when in the days following the November 9 election of President Trump a large number of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and the youth forming the millennial generation protested loudly in many big cities with slogans like “Not my President”, leaders of the American Muslim community were not visible in those rallies.
A few exceptions to the public silence of Muslim organizations are a few Muslim women activists like Linda Sarsour and former movie actress Lindy Lohan. Indeed, these lesser known activists also took major leadership roles in the Women s’ protest rally in Washington on January 21, the day after the inauguration of President Trump, and in the February 19 rally in New York city. Indeed, these Muslim women activists are not shy in wearing hijabs in the public rallies.
This obviously brings up the question as to what is holding back the major Muslim organizations and their predominantly male leadership from taking lead in both types of rallies; the ones against the extreme right wing policies of President Trump and those protesting his newly promulgated Muslim-baiting programs.
For how long can American-Muslim organizations and their leaders hope that the Black and Hispanic organizations will carry their torch for them? Leaders and organizations of these two communities have taken risks and have suffered consequences of protest against right wing US government policies, that also adversely affect the American-Muslim community.
Today it is overdue for the major organizations of American Muslims to wake up, regroup and start exercising the democratic rights of their community against the unwarranted vilification by the far – right - wing President and his groupies. They should organize their own peaceful protest rallies and be in the leadership of other democratic forces as they struggle against the far-right-wing political groups.
The writer is a community activist in Washington DC.