During Saturday night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton declared that Trump is “becoming ISIS’s best recruiter.” Clinton was wrong to suggest Trump had appeared in any ISIS videos but she was right to note that his words will help ISIS radicalize people.
She also left something out: Trump has already radicalized Americans to commit and plot acts of violence right here on American soil.
The latest example came Sunday after William Celli of Richmond, California, was arrested for building explosive devices that he allegedly planned to use to kill Muslim Americans. What inspired Celli’s actions? Well, we know that Celli’s Facebook page reads like a Trump speech filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Latino and anti-Muslim comments. Celli also repeatedly praises Trump, even adding that he would follow Trump “to the end of the world.” This is not unlike social media posts pledging undying loyalty to ISIS-type groups.
But Celli is far from the only Trump supporter to turn to violence. In August, two Trump supporters in Boston beat up a Latino man while yelling anti-immigrant slurs. The police reported that after being arrested, one of the assailants stated, “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”
Trump’s response to this brutal attack in his name was alarmingly tame: “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate.” He added, “They love this country, they want this country to be great again.” Trump did later tweet that the incident was horrible and that “I would never condone violence.”
But just three months later, Trump changed his tune and did condone violence by his supporters. During a campaign event in Birmingham, Alabama, Black Lives Matter protester Mercurito Southhall Jr. repeatedly interrupted The Donald. Trump responded by imploring the crowd to “Get him out the hell out of here... Throw him out!” Trump supporters then sprung into action and beat up Southhall while reportedly calling him a “nigger” and a “monkey.”
Did Trump condemn the attack and racist words directed at the black man by his white supporters? No, to the contrary. Trump told Fox News the morning after the assault, “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
Trump was sending a clear message that violence in the name of Trump was acceptable. I know some will disagree with me, but the stakes are too high to be politically correct. Trump has and will continue to radicalize people to commit horrible acts just like ISIS does. True, the scope of the violence commited by ISIS supporters has been far worse but if Celli’s bomb had gone off and he’d slaughtered Americans, it would have been exactly like an ISIS-inspired terror attack.
And apart from these three incidents, Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims is responsible, to some degree, for the massive spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes we have seen in the last few weeks.
In recent years, there has been an average of 12.6 hate crimes against Muslims in America per month, according to FBI data. However, since the Paris terrorist attack on Nov. 13 there have been 38 anti-Islamic attacks.
A few examples include a Muslim cab driver in Pittsburgh being shot by a man who went on an anti-Muslim tirade, shots fired at a Muslim woman’s car while exiting a mosque in Florida, hot coffee thrown at a Muslim praying in a California park, and death threats directed at numerous Muslim leaders including Rep. Andre Carson, one of the two Muslim members in Congress.
And we have also seen a rash of attacks on American mosques in the past two weeks, with windows broken at the Islamic center in Palm Beach, a pig’s head thrown at a mosque in Philadelphia, hate-filled, threatening letters sent to a mosque in New Jersey, and more.
Are all these hate crimes due to Trump’s alarming rhetoric in recent weeks about Muslims, from vowing to close mosques to banning all Muslims from entering America? No. But there’s absolutely no doubt his words play a role in ginning up fears and legitimizing hate. It’s akin to the hateful fear-mongering by Southern Democrats in the 1950s and ’60s directed against blacks that then led to violence against blacks and their white allies.
Keep in mind that after the 2013 Boston marathon bombing that left three dead and over 250 injured, we didn’t see anything like this level of anti-Muslim hate crimes. As the Associated Press noted in a detailed article published a few weeks after the Boston bombing, “Muslim civil rights leaders say the anti-Islam reaction has been more muted this time than after other attacks since Sept. 11.” And Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the AP reporter then that there had been “no uptick in reports of harassment, assaults or damage to mosques since the April 15 bombings.”
What is the difference between 2013 and now? Simple: Donald J. Trump. After the Boston bombing, leading political figures weren’t actively ratcheting up hate toward Muslims. But that is exactly what Trump has been doing. Trump’s proposals regarding Muslims aren’t about enacting policies, they are about sending the message that all Muslims are a danger to our nation.
Even after nearly 3,000 Americas were killed as a result of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush did the exact opposite of what we are seeing from Trump. Bush, while addressing Congress two weeks after that horrific terror attack, stated: “I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith… Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.”
What a contrast to what we now hear from Trump. This is truly the first time in my life that I have been fearful for the safety of my Muslim American family members and friends. And I’m far from alone in that feeling within the Muslim American community.
Is this what Trump means when he says he wants to make America great again? I’m not sure, but it appears that many of his supporters alarmingly believe that’s exactly what Trump means.