For every atrocity, it seems there’s a close call. In 2016, three men plotted to bomb a mosque and apartment complex in Wichita, Kansas, because of its high concentration of Muslims from Somalia. One of them referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” That plot was foiled.
One militia member involved in the Minnesota mosque bombing, according to the affidavit, said he wanted to “scare them out of the country,” referring to Muslims, “because they push their beliefs on everyone else.” He also said he went through with the bombing to “show them, ‘Hey, you’re not welcome here. Get the fuck out.”
The imam of the mosque pondered in my presence why President Donald Trump was so quick to condemn acts of terror allegedly committed by Muslims and oddly restrained and absent when acts of violence were allegedly committed against Muslims.
“He is the president of this country, and this happened to us. He has to come here and at least express his feelings and say this is bad,” the imam told me.
But the president seems incapable of denouncing violence against Muslims with energy or sincerity. In this way, he is profoundly American.
Muslims here are regularly dehumanized. Even their religion is delegitimized as not a religion, and some have gone so far as to state that adherence to the Muslim faith may be incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.
Read: How white supremacists violence echoes other forms of terrorism
In 2018, a former colleague and I marveled at how often elected officials seemed to make disparaging statements about Muslims and just get away with it. Similar statements about any other religious minority wouldn’t stand, we thought. We challenged ourselves to find at least one instance in every state. Our analysis revealed that since 2015, Republican officials in 49 states have openly denigrated Muslims and proposed anti-Muslim legislation, typically with impunity. (The exception was Utah, but if we’d extended the time frame from five years to seven, it would have made the list too.)
These facts become all the more alarming when one realizes that Muslim Americans, for all the negative attention they receive, account for an estimated 1 percent of the U.S. population.
The Washington Post reported last year that “over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist.” At what point will Americans widely acknowledge that white supremacy can be as big a threat to Americans as Islamism? That point seems far off; right now, many Americans don’t acknowledge that anti-Muslim bigotry is a problem at all.
This is a country where a politician can say Islam is “a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out” and remain in office. A nation where people proudly held “anti-Sharia” rallies in 28 cities in 21 states, in 2017.