“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.”
December 7, 2015. That is the day Trump’s Muslim ban was born as he exclaimed the above words to his cheering supporters at a rally in South Carolina.
I vividly remember that day because my jaw literally dropped. I could not believe—or at least did not want to believe—that a candidate for one of the two major political parties was openly advocating unfiltered hate in order to achieve political gain in the modern era. I wondered what young Muslim American children thought when they heard this? They were already suffering bullying at staggering levels; would this increase it? Would women with hijabs be targeted even more because Trump made it clear that all Muslims are a threat? Would mosques be attacked? The answer to all of that was tragically “yes” as we saw a spike in hate crimes in both 2016 and 2017, many of those committed by self-professed Trump supporters.
And then, that candidate, right after making that statement and presumably because of it, became the Republican Party front-runner.
And today, June 26, 2018, the United States Supreme Court helped Trump turn his anti-Muslim proposal into U.S policy. This is clearly not the first time our Supreme Court has validated bigotry. The most infamous ruling was the 1856 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that declared African American were not citizens of the United states simply because of their race. And there was the more recent 1944 case of Korematsu v. United States where the Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-American simply because of their ethnic heritage. But I thought we were beyond Supreme Court decisions based on bigotry. Sadly, I was wrong.
When I say this ban is simply based on hate not policy, that’s not just my view. An inspiring cross-section of organizations has made that very point, including NAACP, the ACLU, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, National LGBTQ Task Force and many others. In fact these groups and others united with Muslim American organizations like Muslim Advocates and CAIR gathered to protest this decision at a “We will not be banned” rally outside the Supreme Court the morning the decision was announced.
And the NAACP powerfully argued in its friend of the court brief it filed that Trump’s Muslim ban “evokes the most shameful periods of our nation’s history: the stereotype that African Americans were inherently dangerous was used to justify slavery and Jim Crow laws, and the same stereotype about Japanese Americans was used to justify their internment during World War II.”
Add to that, before case arrived at the Supreme Court, a hearing of all of the federal judges that make up the Fourth Circuit Court of appeals had declared in a 9-4 decision that the Muslim ban was “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam.” The court detailed Trump’s anti-Muslim comments as a candidate and as President and concluded that this ban “second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance” in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Trump’s original call for a Muslim ban in December 2015 wasn’t based on the reasoned advice of national security experts. Rather its foul beginnings were predicated on Trump’s understanding what motivates the GOP base. He had seen this just a few months before, when GOP primary opponent Ben Carson declared that a Muslim shouldn’t be permitted to serve as President of the United States.
What was the response? Carson saw a fundraising bonanza, climbed in the polls and got something else Trump loves: media coverage. In fact Trump commented that Carson had “been getting a lot of ink on the Muslims...and I guess people look at that and they probably like it. Some people thought they wouldn’t like it, but they probably do.”
Trump was right. Anti-Muslim hate played well with the GOP base as polls found 65 percent of Republican primary voters supported it. But that’s not surprising. The GOP has been marinating in anti-Muslim bigotry for years. I know because I’ve been documenting the growth of it. Well before Trump’s call for a Muslim ban, I wrote an article in January 2015 predicting that with gay marriage decided by the Supreme Court, that Muslims would become the number one target for the GOP to demonize since the base was primed to hate Muslims.
We saw it from an Oklahoma state representative calling Islam a “cancer” that should be cut of America. (He received a standing ovation from Republicans.) Other GOP legislators enacted laws to prevent sharia law from being implemented as they ginned up fear over a phantom menace they created. While more Republican officials swore that Muslims want to destroy America.
It’s this back drop that gave us not just Trump’s 2015 call for a Muslim ban but his original January 27, 2017 presidential executive order implementing the policy. By the time the Supreme Court heard the case they just decided, we were at version 3.0 which banned people from five Muslim majority countries Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen.
(This iteration of the ban tried to camouflage anti-Muslim bias by also including North Korea and to certain officials in the Venezuela government.)
But today the five GOP appointed Supreme Court Justices ignored all of that. In fact, they ignored reality, writing instead that Trump’s history of anti-Muslim comments “alone does not support an inference of religious hostility.”
While over in the real world, Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote in her dissent the truth: “Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.” She also wrote words that resonate deeply with me and I'm sure countless others, noting that the “United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty,” but adding, “The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle.”
So what’s next? Today Muslim American parents have to explain to their children why the United States Supreme Court upheld Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry. Going forward we know when Trump needs to give more red meat to his base, he will likely seek to expand this Muslim ban to additional Muslim majority countries, many all of them. And sadly we can expect to see more anti-Muslim hate crimes as the Court today took a step to legitimatize anti-Muslim hate. This is America under Trump.