When asked by reporters on Wednesday about President Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim videos, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “what the President is talking about is the need for national security, the need for military spending.”
Her talking points are out of date. The videos are not about “national security” at all. The first supposedly depicts a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. (The assailant may have been neither a migrant nor Muslim). The second supposedly shows a Muslim man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary. It appears to have been filmed in Syria. The third apparently shows an “Islamist mob” pushing “a teenage boy off a roof.” It comes from Egypt. None involves terrorism against the United States or even Europe. None could have been prevented by more “military spending.”
Sanders is behind the times. Trump’s tweets show that, increasingly, America’s purveyors of anti-Muslim bigotry no longer need terrorism as a rationalization. Islamophobia is finding new justifications, which don’t rely on ISIS or Al Qaeda detonating bombs in London or Chicago. And in that way, it’s embedding itself more deeply in America’s political terrain.
It’s no surprise that Trump may have learned about the videos from Ann Coulter, who has been at the forefront of this Islamophobia 2.0. Her 2016 book, Adios America, which Trump called “a great read,” is filled with descriptions of Muslim depravity. It declares that in Lewiston, Maine, “Somali boys roam the streets physically assaulting the locals.” It includes a section on “Muslim Rape Culture.” And it mocks “Muslim refugees from tribal societies” who are “thunderstruck by indoor plumbing.” It’s only peripherally about terrorism. For Coulter, the problem with letting Muslims enter the United States is not that they commit terrorism. Terrorism is merely a symptom of their deeper hostility to American values, a hostility that expresses itself in a wide variety of ways: from beating up white kids to raping white women to ripping off the welfare state to generally being unsanitary.