“The Muslim American community is expanding, which is beautiful.” I doubt you would ever hear these words uttered by a Republican governmental official anywhere. And we definitely know it’s not something you will hear from the 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
But those were the very words that United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the sold-out crowd on Thursday night at the Muslim Advocates 10th anniversary dinner.
As the emcee of this event, I was excited to hear what the nation’s highest law enforcement official was going to say. I frankly expected to hear more along the lines of broad platitudes about hate is wrong, freedom of religion for all, etc. But that’s not what Lynch gave us.
Instead Lynch, while being interviewed by Muslims Advocates executive director Farhana Khera, offered passionate words that were truly moving. In a time when we have seen a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes and increasingly hateful words directed at our community by numerous Republicans, most notably Donald Trump and Ben Carson, Lynch made it clear that we are not alone.
“My message to the Muslim community is that we stand with you in these times,” Lynch told the audience. Addressing the specific words of people like Trump and the online hate directed against Muslims, Lynch commented that the “greatest fear is this rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence.”
That point certainly resonated with the primarily but not exclusively Muslim audience. Since the Paris terrorist attacks, there has been a spike in hate crimes against Muslim Americans, with death threats, shots fired at a Connecticut mosque, and hateful graffiti sprayed on mosques in various states, including in Omaha, Nebraska.
But the violence and potential terror attacks against Muslim Americans didn’t start with the Paris attack. Thursday’s dinner was attended by the mother and brother of Deah Barakat, one of three young Muslims murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last February by a man who hated all religions, but especially Muslims. As the autopsy report found, the killer held his gun to the head of two of three of his victims. This was not a dispute over a parking spot as some claimed, but a hate-fueled execution.
Also in the audience were representatives from a primarily Muslim community in upstate New York that was the target of a terrorist plot by Christian minister Robert Doggart. Invoking his “commitment to our God,” Doggart had planed to slaughter Muslim Americans with an M-4 assault rifle, armor-piercing bullets, explosive devices, and even a machete to cut “them to shreds.” Doggart’s trial is to begin next month in federal court.
And just in August, Glendon Scott Crawford was convicted in federal court for his terrorist plot to use a weapon of mass destruction to kill Muslims in New York. Crawford, a white supremacist Klan member, was motivated, per the indictment, to “kill the enemies of Israel.” (Of course, since these terrorists were not Muslim, the mainstream media ignores these cases.)
But Lynch went further than just speaking out against anti-Muslim hate. In stark contrast to Trump’s vow to close American mosques, Lynch made it clear that she will fight for the rights of American Muslims to “expand and build mosques.” She added that “the Department of Justice is there for you” to ensure Muslims have the same rights as Americans of other faiths to build houses of worship.
The attorney general, who was introduced at the event by Rep. Andre Carson, who is one of the two Muslim Americans serving in Congress, also touched on the Syrian refugee issue. She made it clear that while the safety of Americans is paramount, we can’t “rush to judgment” on closing the door to people in dire need. Lynch noted that the refugees will be thoroughly vetted before they are allowed to even set foot on U.S. soil.
As Lynch was offering us these beautiful words, I couldn’t help but to think how some conservatives would view them. Here was Lynch standing up for Muslim Americans while 75 percent of the GOP thinks Islam is “at odds” with American values. And even more startling is that 30 percent of Iowa Republicans believe Islam should be banned in America, and that number goes up to 36 percent among Trump supporters.
No doubt some on the right will be outraged that Lynch appeared at a Muslim advocacy event. But then again these are generally the same people who demonize the Black Lives Matter Movement and attack La Raza, the Latino advocacy group. You get a sense that some of the people on the right simply want people of color to shut our mouths in the face of injustice. That in their view, we should just be happy we are allowed to live in “their country,” despite the fact we are also American citizens. These right-wingers can get as outraged as they want, but they should know we will never be silent.
The Muslim Advocates event, which included leaders of other faiths, including Rabbi Jack Moline, the head of the Interfaith Alliance, and Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, who was honored for his interfaith efforts, truly represented the best of America. It reminded me that despite what Trump and his minions may believe, Americans are not waiting for Trump to make America great. We already are.