By Ibrahim Hooper
The horrific anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which resulted in the loss of 11 precious lives, was the devastating yet inevitable consequence of the daily mainstreaming of racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant hate and Islamophobia by President Donald Trump and an extremist minority of his followers.
Trump began his campaign for the White House by attacking Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and continues that racist line of attack to this day with the manufactured migrant caravan “invasion” by “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.”
The alleged Pittsburgh synagogue shooter blamed Jews for the caravan of “invaders” and posted on social media about the “massive human caravans of young men … invading America thru [sic] our unsecured southern border.”
Two hours before the synagogue attack, the alleged shooter wrote that HIAS, a Jewish- organization that helps refugees, “likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”
Trump’s mainstreaming of hate — and the resulting violence by an extremist minority — is made possible by the silence of politicians like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wish to reap the gains of Republican control of the executive branch while avoiding repudiation of Trump’s constant promotion of bigotry.
It is no coincidence that in recent days, we have witnessed not only the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, but also the nationwide pipe bomb campaign by a Trump supporter in Florida targeting the president’s perceived opponents as well as the murder of two African-Americans at a grocery store in Kentucky by a man who reportedly tried to enter a Black church before the attack. The Kentucky shooter allegedly told an armed white civilian not to shoot him because “whites don’t shoot whites.”
We all saw the alleged Florida mail bomber’s van that was plastered with messages supporting Trump and attacking liberals. In September, in response to one of Trump’s tweets, the alleged bomber posted a video of himself apparently at one of the president’s rallies. He also posted virulently anti-Muslim memes. While Trump didn’t directly engage in these bombing attempts, his rhetoric indirectly encouraged it.
The crowds at MAGA rallies shouting, “lock her up” and “CNN sucks” — referencing two recipients of Trump-inspired pipe bombs – reflect the president’s bigotry and a feedback loop reinforcing his amoral and un-American mindset.
As with the silence of Republican leaders, the vocal support of almost exclusively white MAGA rally audiences makes Donald Trump’s targeting of minority communities and the media possible, and – to him – free of consequence.
When a Louisiana synagogue was targeted recently by Nazi graffiti, I condemned the vandalism by those “espousing a hate-filled ideologue that should have been consigned to the trash heap of history.”
That is the problem we face today. The hatreds that we thought had been reduced to relics on history’s trash heap are now roaring back with a vengeance, all thanks to an unprincipled leader who uses those hatreds to his perceived advantage, without regard to the damage he is doing to our nation and its democratic institutions.
From Trump’s original birtherism and racist campaign kick-off, to his “Muslim ban,” his refusal to condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, to his references to “sh*thole countries,” old hatreds are dragged from the fringes and underbelly of society to the mainstream.
The only answer to Donald Trump’s campaign of division is national unity and renewed adherence to the rule of law and interpersonal civility.
We must resist the siren call to support our respective “tribes” as a bulwark against the “other.”
A person once asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “What is partisanship?” The Prophet replied: “(It means) helping your own people in an unjust cause.”
In the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, God states: “O humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you.” (49:13)
Following the Pittsburgh massacre, CAIR-Pittsburgh President Safdar Khwaja said: “This attack is on American values and principles of humanity, and we all need to come together to restore civilized values to our society.”
American Muslim organizations have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help support their Jewish neighbors targeted by hate.
It is only through knowing and supporting each other, and rejecting injustice, that we may finally honor our nation’s motto: “Out of many, one.”