Muslims are not our enemy. In the era of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE, that’s a controversial statement, but it does not make it any less true. President George W. Bush, in the shadow of 9/11, carefully defined the scope of the enemy as extremists who use Islam to their own ends, and not all Muslims.
Some Muslims, due to their declaration of animosity against us, are the enemy. Muslims, as a larger category are not.
In response to the string of attempted and successful bombings in New York and New Jersey, Donald Trump invaded the airwaves this morning, taking a victory lap with a combination of crowing “I-told-you-so-ism” and sweeping condemnation of immigrants in general and Muslim immigrants in particular.
“These are sick people, Okay? These are sick, evil people that want to destroy this country,” he reportedly told Fox and Friends, without differentiating Islamic terrorists from other Muslims. He called for profiling, saying, “you have to stop them from coming into the country.” He went on, predictably, to rail against the entrance of refugees into the United States.
This Trump stance, the core of his campaign, is the culmination of a philosophical tension America has experienced ever since the massive terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
How does a free society which values pluralism find security? Both freedom and pluralism inherently bring risk.
Pluralism is the idea that people of varied backgrounds and beliefs can form a coherent society based on mutual respect, under an umbrella of shared values. It does not require uniformity of belief, race, or even personal behavior, but insists on a minimal standard of treating others well and following law.
Trump rejects both freedom and pluralism, promising security in return. His domestic authoritarianism is clear to see: He’d like to restrict the press in numerous ways, stop businesses from operating as they choose, increase police presence and generally stop all bad stuff until we know what is going on.
His international authoritarianism is equally clear: Take the oil, build the wall, make NATO allies pay, and generally stop countries from being bad until we know what is going on. Except, oddly, Russia, the corrupt and restrictive state, which he seems to hold as an example.
He rejects pluralism, in that he would bar, among other peoples, all Muslims, or all peoples from certain countries from our nation without due process to establish which are threats and which are not. To Trump, Islam itself is the problem, not bad practitioners of Islam.
Americans allow this because we as a whole are shamefully and willfully ignorant of the basics of Islam, even though the information is freely available. This is shameful in any people, but even more so in Evangelicals who take their faith so seriously and in so many hotly debated and varied shades.
We who understand not only the divide between Catholic and Protestant but also between Free Will Baptist and Anabaptist see no nuance between Sunni and Shia. We who endlessly debate what Christians are allowed to do and remain in God’s grace — watch R-rated movies or buy Disney products or be gay or vote for Hillary — interpret Sharia law as a monolithic and horrific unity.
It’s not. Sharia runs the spectrum from general Golden Rule morality to strict behavior enforcing beard length and burkas, depending on who is asked. ISIS and Taliban Sharia is the exception, not the rule, and many would say an abomination of Sharia.
We choose to be ignorant because it makes it easier to make the Muslim our enemy. If we understood better, we would know that Muslims in general are not the enemy.
Certainly not the ones who fought beside our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, people who bought into American values of freedom and pluralism and were willing to lay down their lives to bring that hope to their country. Certainly not those who live here in America, practicing their religion in peace and contributing to their communities.
Certainly not the Muslim doctors and aid workers toiling alongside Christians and secularists to relieve the misery of refugee camps. And definitely not the Muslims who defend our country with honor in the military and our streets in law enforcement.
In the past we have honored our commitment to such people when they’ve escaped their war-torn homes, welcoming in our Vietnamese allies as they desperately fled that country by boat, making room for those fleeing the former Soviet Union seeking better lives. We recognized in them a desire for the best of America — for freedom and peaceful pluralism — and welcomed them in.
Only now do we lump the allies in with the enemy, targeted because we somehow cannot or will not acknowledge a difference between friend and foe.
As a classic American and as a Christian believer, I embrace pluralism because I believe in both the idea that all people are born equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, regardless of race, background, or creed and because further, I believe every human being to carry the image of God whether they worship God in the way I understand to be correct or not.
That is why I support refugees from the Middle East, both those who come here and those who remain in the region. To say that Muslim refugees from the wars in the Middle East are different in kind from those who have come before is simply wrong.
Those that come seeking a better life, freedom from the governments who oppress them, freedom from religious extremist who would dictate to them at the edge of a blade, are the same type of people who came here from Europe, from Asia, from all over the world. I, personally, stand ready to embrace those who embrace America.
Does that include risk? Absolutely. It is true that some people will lie and come with evil intent or that some will become disenchanted with America and turn against it. That is a matter for law enforcement. It is a matter to consider and address in a measured and reasonable fashion.
It is not a reason to dismiss American values.
America is strong. We are stronger than those that attack us. The American ideal will outlast them as it did European religious wars, Communism, and totalitarianism. If we allow fear and a craving for security to make us change what is essential to the American essence, we lose more than we ever could from an attack.
Rebecca Cusey is a writer based in Washington DC. She writes about movies, TV, pop culture, politics and faith. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.