The fallout from the Paris attacks is still hanging over U.S. domestic and foreign policy amid a large security alert in anticipation of any [new] terror attacks. The U.S. Department of State issued a global travel warning on the eve of the Thanksgiving celebrations for American citizens not to travel to any other country.* This warning will end on Feb. 24, 2016, meaning that many will cancel their plans to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The U.S. Department of State has said it believes it has information that the Islamic State, al-Qaida and Boko Haram are continuing to plan other terrorist attacks in several areas around the world. Due to the information, the State Department had to caution its citizens against traveling abroad. Yet, what about travel attacks inside America? Similar warnings were issued by the State Department and the intelligence agencies to U.S. citizens to be vigilant in public places or when using any means of transportation, especially during the holidays and official events.
In reality, this security alert represents a wave of anger against the 7 million Muslim Americans who constitute 9 percent of the total population of the United States. The situation is laden with hateful and racist rhetoric manifesting itself in many of the procedures and statements that members of the Republican Party are largely adopting. Muslims in America are now living in a similar environment to the one that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, including hysteria, intolerance and persecution against Muslim Americans, some of whom are arriving amid extremist calls for the deportation of Muslims, while others are calling for the closure of mosques. Of course, this is all directed at Syrians who are fleeing the hellish conditions of a civil war and the missiles of various countries that are raining down on them. The fact that some of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were Syrian refugees is what compelled a majority of the 289 lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to vote to block Barack Obama’s plan to increase the amount of Syrians and Iraqis the U.S. accepts annually.** This is in addition to the governors of 27 states refusing to resettle Syrian refugees in an attempt to pressure the Obama administration by spreading an atmosphere of Islamophobia. The Republican Party is using all means to implant a fear of Muslims in the minds of American citizens. This is done with the applause of Republicans who view it as protecting national security.
Donald Trump, the seditious billionaire and Republican Party candidate for the presidency, led the extremist, racist camp against Muslims. He has even gone as far as demanding the creation of special IDs for Muslim Americans! His comments have drawn intense anger from Muslim Americans, who began reacting by creating a social media campaign where they post pictures of their IDs with captions highlighting the achievements of Muslims. They did this as a response to Trump accusing Muslims of not offering anything to their new country. Within the Muslim-American community are doctors, engineers, university professors, as well as those in both the police and military. They are, therefore, pitting themselves against Trump’s lies to show that they are the most educated minority group. Muslim Americans are also showing how they occupy the most senior positions within high-profile organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and NASA.
Some American news outlets, such as CNN, have accused Trump of running a dirty campaign. The outlets accused Trump of being based on the idea of dividing Americans, especially after his campaign released altered footage of thousands of Muslim Americans in New Jersey clapping after the 9/11 attacks in Washington and New York.
There is no basis in reality for his claims. Trump has pledged that in the event of his election, he will close some mosques. He has also stated that he would deport refugees, among them Syrians. In defense of his plan, Trump cited three former American presidents as precedent. The first he referred to was President Hoover (1929-1933), who removed 121,000 immigrants during the Great Depression in order to preserve jobs for Americans. The second was Harry Truman (1945-1951), who deported close to 3,500,000 immigrants. Lastly, there was Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), who increased the degree of hatred against Americans and removed over 1,000,000 immigrants. Is Trump going to restart an anti-immigrant policy in the event he wins the presidency? No one can put anything past Trump!
Certainly, this hate speech does not amuse the political elite in Washington, especially when Trump began attacking Latin American immigrants, or when he compared his plan to build a fence on the U.S. southern border to the Israeli’s wall! Trump has also targeted the religious intolerance of Muslim Americans and turned on the African-American community, accusing them of perpetrating violent crimes against whites and the police. These comments have led to a wave of criticism against Trump from all the groups he has attacked.
It is true that blind intolerance toward a particular color, religion or nationality contradicts the principles of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits these forms of discrimination. The Constitution respects individual differences, freedoms and beliefs. However, despite what the Constitution states, Trump is still leading in opinion polls with 32 percent among Republican voters. This is what gives the impression that all of his racist and intolerant speech against anyone who is not a white Christian citizen is gaining support among a few groups of Americans.
Amid Republicans in Congress, conservative governors, and Republican presidential candidates with their ignorant, Islamophobic tones is President Barack Obama, who is confronting them with more tolerant rhetoric. Obama has refused calls to detain Muslims, saying it’s “absolutely false" that "we are somehow at war with an entire religion … So I want to be as clear as I can on this — prejudice and discrimination helps [the Islamic State] and undermines our national security.” Obama has additionally criticized calls to not resettle Syrian refugees. “If you were a father and saw these children, then you said we are unable to find a home for them anywhere in the United States, this is at conflict with our values,” he said.***
It is not only President Barack Obama who maintains this view. Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sided with Obama's view, saying, “Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every single Syrian refugee — that is just not who we are. We are better than that.”
There are some voices within the Democratic Party that are out of sync with the rest of the party, and who are touting an approach similar to that of the Republicans. One of the most important Democratic figures, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has rejected the White House’s stance on resettling Syrian refugees. For his part, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (a longtime supporter of Israel) told reporters that a pause in accepting Syrian refugees "may be necessary." It seems that due to the upcoming presidential elections in November 2016, the Democratic Party will increasingly align its voice with Obama’s foreign and immigration policies in order to earn even more support. Otherwise, racists and those riding national security concerns, such as the Republican Party, will earn the always-crucial swing votes that determine the outcome of the presidential elections.
However, the irony in the rapid international response in forming an alliance to combat terrorism, and the recent tension between Ankara and Russia over the downing of a Russian fighter jet in Turkish skies, is that it has shifted dangerously. It now warrants a careful reading of the situation internationally because it looks like the beginning of World War III on the ground in Syria. This is clearly manifesting itself via Russia’s anger at Turkey over the downing of its plane, which Russian President Vladimir Putin described as, “a stab in our back by associates of terrorism.” Putin is warning Turkey of “serious consequences.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cancelled his trip to Turkey that was planned for Wednesday, and then issued statements calling for a break in Russian relations with Turkey. These announcements are in addition to comments from the Russian military that Russia will destroy any targets that threaten its forces.
Developments like these are causing us to consider what Russia’s expected reaction will be. It is causing us to anticipate what sanctions — if any — Russia will impose on Ankara as a reaction to the international insult received when its $25 million jet was shot down and its pilot killed in Syria.
In return, NATO has defended Turkey, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg siding with Turkey and iterating his support for peace on the ground. While he supported Turkey, he is criticizing Russia’s attacks in Syria, describing them as targeting areas where the Islamic State has no presence. Also, at the same time, the 27 NATO ambassadors did not defend Turkey’s actions, saying it could have escorted the Russian jet out of Turkey’s airspace rather than shooting it down.
In Washington, during a joint press conference between U.S. President Barack Obama and his French counterpart François Hollande, Obama criticized Russia’s policy of supporting Bashar Assad, requesting that he step down immediately. Obama talked about Turkey’s right to defend its airspace and agreed with Hollande about the need to not misconstrue Syrian refugees with the Islamic State group’s threats. It seems that there is a similarity between the two presidents’ perspectives on the need to reduce the anger against Islam and Muslims. Therefore, their agreement seems to have come as a result of the terrorist activities the Islamic State group conducts around the world.
The winds of a new “Cold War” are returning with Washington defending its NATO ally Turkey. Russia continues to raise the tone of its threats against Turkey. In that country’s hands are many of the real issues at play within the Middle East, especially the Russian-Chinese-Iranian alliance. The Arab and Islamic worlds remain hostage in a power struggle between the great powers of the world. The Russian plane targeted in Turkish airspace and its crash in Syria has military analysts expecting that any action Russia resorts to against Turkey will take place in Syria as well. Syria, it seems, will bear witness to a war sponsored by Washington and Moscow from the doors of NATO member Turkey. The blind anger against Muslims and Arabs remains a political game, a theater for international bidding. Is there an Arab/Islamic role to be played in supporting Syrian refugees and solving the Syrian crisis? Or will we wait while the powerful countries plan to cut them off militarily and snatch away all the goodwill that is left in our world as if it were nothing more than a game of chess without resistance?
*Editor’s Note: According to State Department’s website, travel.state.gov, this alert was actually issued on Nov. 23, 2015.
**Editor’s note: The author uses the term Congress here (which includes the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives), but the vote referred to here was taken in the House of Representatives with a vote of 289-137.
***Editor’s note: Correctly translated, this quote could not be verified.