Regardless of the issue, you just can’t shut Donald Trump up. Lord knows, his three campaign managers and current and former White House chief of staff have nearly died trying.
They have begged, pleaded, and cajoled the slumlord-in-chief to forgo his Twitter account. It was even rumoured that the Republican campaign convinced the then-presidential candidate to surrender his mobile phone in the closing days of the election.
But his rambling, incoherent, insulting, flagrantly dishonest and vicious tweets continue unabated. No matter the political and personal damage to Trump, and no matter the irreparable damage his tweets impart on the country he was elected to lead: he will not be silenced.
Well, almost. There is one issue, one ever-growing national tragedy, which the 45th president of the United States will neither provide comment on, nor condemn.
Trump’s silence on rising hate crimes against Muslim Americans is deafening.
Early on Saturday morning, anti-Muslim terrorists, presumably white nationalists, bombed a mosque in Minnesota. Twenty Muslim American worshippers were inside. This act meets any definition of terrorism, for it not only intended to instrumentalise its intended victims, but also communicate a message, writ large, to Muslim Americans: you’re not wanted here.
This was an act of terrorism carried out on American soil. Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton called it exactly that. After a meeting with local leaders, he told media that “if the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack. And that's what it is, an act of terrorism."
The silence of Trump
But what of the president of the United States, a man put in charge of reassuring the public in times of great angst and anxiety? Not a word. Not a single tweet. Not so much as a peep.
Trump’s refusal to offer even one word of condemnation for the Minnesota mosque bombing amounts to tacit endorsement for terrorism against Muslim American citizens.
It’s not like the president is too busy doing the job of being president. I mean, not only has he now played 47 rounds of golf in his first 200 days in office, but also, as John Harwood observes, Trump has fired off a dozen or more tweets since the terrorist attack in Minnesota, each containing one or more of the following words to describe others: "fake," "phony," "totally inept," "lied," "defrauded," "con artist," "child," and "baby."
This is not the first and only time Trump has neither offered support for Muslim victims, nor condemnation for their attackers.
When an avowed Trump supporter walked into a mosque in Quebec City in late January with an AK47 and murdered six Muslims in cold blood, Trump was silent.
When a white nationalist terrorist drove his van into Muslims leaving and entering Finsbury Park mosque in London in June, Trump was silent.
When Christian extremists were arrested for plotting to carry out a large-scale terrorist attack against Somali Americans at an apartment complex in Kansas on election day, Trump was silent.
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Trump’s air war has now killed more than 2,000 civilians in Iraq and Syria. Trump is silent.
Put more succinctly, when Muslims are killed Trump doesn’t utter a word - but when a Muslim kills white people, Trump has more to say than a self-important narcissist at an office Christmas party. It becomes “radical Islam” this and “Islamic terrorism” that to anyone who will listen.
In Trump’s America, there are worthy and unworthy victims - and there are worthy and unworthy attackers.
In Trump’s America, there are worthy and unworthy victims - and there are worthy and unworthy attackers
In May, Trump did condemn the fatal stabbings of two Good Samaritans on a Portland commuter train, who were killed while trying to stop a man from harassing women who appeared to be Muslim. But, as Nasser Beydoun, the chairman of the Arab American Civil Rights League, told MEE: “It means nothing. This is his constituency. He thrives off hate. His whole presidency is based on hate, so one tweet isn’t going to make a difference.”
Christian Christensen, a professor of journalism studies at Stockholm University, observes that “Muslims injured by a white man are not ‘worthy’ of attention because they do not serve Trump’s larger project of the demonisation of Muslims, refugees and immigrants: an indistinguishable human mass in the eyes of the US president. Nor do they serve the interests of portraying white Christian Europe (and, by association, white Christian America) as the bastion of all that is decent and good.”
In doing so, Trump telegraphs that it’s okay to terrorise Muslims, sending the message that if the White House will not condemn violence against Muslim Americans, then the law enforcement apparatus of the state will also turn a blind eye.
The empowerment of extremists
We have now reached a dangerous tipping point in America. While anti-Muslim violence has climbed steadily during the past decade, it spiked since Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015. In fact, hate crimes that target Muslims surged 584 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Both the Trump candidacy and presidency have mobilised and empowered those who wish to carry out acts of violence against Muslim Americans. These right-wing extremist elements take their cues from the president, who has demonised Muslims, Islam and immigrants. These elements, long consigned to the fringes of American social and political life, have now taken centre stage, and are unafraid to stand in the limelight. Only this week, CNN reported that an average of nine mosques per month have been attacked in the US so far this year.
Heavily armed right-wing militias are now openly and actively supporting pro-Trump candidates and officials across the country. In turn, Republican party officeholders and office seekers are embracing militias such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University, told The Trace: “With right-wing extremists who venerate the president looking for new enemies, some state and local politicians who are remaking partisanship in Trump’s image may see militias as a way to tighten their grip on power.
“The brash political style and 'America First’ agenda ushered into the Republican party by Trump appeals to people in the militia movement, drawing them toward the political mainstream.”
These militias have played an organising role amid this anti-Muslim animus. They have convened armed protests against mosques, and routinely spread fake anti-Muslim conspiracy theories across their social media platforms. Now they are openly and actively involved in mainstream politics.
As president of the United States, Trump is responsible for the safety and welfare of all American citizens. Not just the ones he likes, and not just those who resemble his political base.
To remain silent in the face of ever increasing anti-Muslim violence is to put the safety and welfare of Muslim Americans at further risk.