In the last few weeks what many thought to be unbelievable began to unfold – Donald Trump in power as the 45th President of the United States of America. Muslims in America and beyond are particularly apprehensive. Throughout his election campaign Trump whipped up racist and Islamophobic sentiments that had been incubated in the minds of the American public since 11th September 2001 (aka 9/11). He has imposed a “Muslim Ban” by signing an executive order preventing entry to the United States from seven Muslim majority nations. During his electoral campaign he defined Muslims as treacherous in nature and an enemy to Americans. Indeed, the coming of Trump to power has emboldened the racist trend that has always existed in the US and Europe in general, where white supremacists have started to voice their hatred towards people of the other races openly. Muslims are prominent targets.
Trumps electoral campaign was based upon the raw sensation that was felt by many Americans. In him, many white Americans throughout the old industrial towns and beyond saw Trump as a ray of hope. A hope that would restore well paid jobs for Americans, restrict immigration and deal with foreign threats, like that of Islam. Whilst the Democrats carried on in the same old rhetoric that was used by Obama – the American public voted Trump in as president. Some Muslims have a faint hope that a cure to racism can be found in the Western secular ideology. In this article we would like to explore some of the issues surrounding racism and the West and why it is not Trump that is the cause of racism but secularism itself.
The Rise of Racist Politics in the West
Racism has always been part and parcel of Western Civilisation, such as the treatment of slaves that embedded white superiority in the mindset of white Americans. Take the racism of Germans under Nazism that referred to other races as Untermensch (socially inferior or subhumans). Or, take Winston Churchill’s well known racism. In 1943 Churchill prevented shipments of food to India, even though it was available. This caused the death of up to 3 million people in India due to famine – Churchill quipped it’s their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”. Racism in many parts of the Western world is institutionalised. The disproportionate killings of blacks in the US by white police officers, clearly shows that racism is embodied in many state institutions. London’s Metropolitan police was slammed as institutionally racist by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe a former London police commissioner .
Racism by its very nature is ugly and Islam condemned it and sought to unify people on the basis of the Islamic aqeeda. It addressed the problem at its root and prohibited people from being racist. Indeed the Prophet (saw) said “O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over an Arab, and neither white (skin) over black nor black over white, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message?” (Musnad Ahmad)
On one occasion the Jews of Medina sought to bring about disunity in the ranks of the Muslims after seeing the Aus and Khazraj united by Iman. They sent a youth to incite remembrance of the battle of Bu’ath where the Aus had been victorious over the Khazraj, and he recited poetry to bring about division between them. This invoked old rivalries and incited the tribes to raise arms. When the news reached the Messenger of Allah, he (saw) said “O Muslims, remember Allah, remember Allah. Will you act as pagans while I am present with you after Allah has guided you to Islam, and honoured you thereby and made a clean break with paganism; delivered you thereby from kufr; made you friends thereby?” When the Aus and Khazraj heard this they wept, and embraced each other. This incident clearly highlights how the Messenger of Allah (saw) rebuked any forms of racism. Allah (swt) then revealed,
“O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared and die not except in a state of Islam. And hold fast together all of you to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favours on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace you became brothers; and you were on the brink of the pit of fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you that you may be guided” [TMQ 3:102-103].
It can be seen that unlike Islam, secularism offers no solution to the question of race. It is left to the preference of the individual. If the political classes feel it beneficial to use racist tendencies to gain political leverage then they will – just like Trump. The reason that it is usually prevented from becoming acceptable is that racism disrupts societal harmony and for this reason it has been outlawed – not because it is considered to be bad in itself. Western societies have struggled with racism and its momentum ebbs and flows with political tide. It was embedded in the philosophy of the Nazis in Germany. In Britain for example in 1960s after the arrival of non-white immigrants to work in British industries there was much discontent amongst Englishmen. This sentiment was picked up Enoch Powell, a British politician in a speech known as the ‘Rivers of Blood’ – where he made a prediction that there would be bloodshed and the country would be taken over by foreigners . To address this problem the British government introduced a law, the Race Relations Act, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race. The underlying racist sentiment still exists to this day although it is illegal to be openly racist. The Civil Rights Movement in the USA may have had its successes but to this day blacks are still disadvantaged. Secularism simply does not address the issue of race at its root in the minds of the people. Rather it brings in laws or other measures to minimise social strife – which are changeable with the political climate. The same applies to other issues like women’s rights – where on the surface women are to be treated as equals but in reality they are only to be exploited.
What the election of Trump has done is to give voice to the underlying racism and hatred that exists in Western societies. White supremacist organisations rejoiced at Trump taking power. Organisations like the Ku Klux Klan celebrated in places like North Carolina . The age of political correctness is being wound back by Trump – where people would try to use words that hide their true racist sentiments – are now becoming open. It is likely, once the negative effects of racist bigotry are felt, that another political consensus will develop that will not solve the root the problem of racism – but rather cover it over on the basis of preserving social harmony or national unity.
How Should Muslims View What’s Going On?
Having gained Office of the President, it seems so far that Trump is trying to live up to his racist and Islamophobic rhetoric. The trend for the racist Islamophobia that Trump has espoused is not limited to the US. Rather it exists throughout the Western world. In France there is Front Nationale headed by Marine Le Pen, in Germany there is PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) and many more racist and Islamophobic movements throughout the Western world.
Indeed the policy of Islamophobia that has become ingrained in Western thinking has created a new dynamic that did not exist only a few decades ago. The racist sentiment can easily be directed at the millions of Muslims spread throughout the Western world. Will Western powers use Muslims as hate figures and scapegoats for their failure to bring prosperity to their masses? It seems that this is the underlying trend.
The truth of the matter is regardless of the type of politics that are practised in the West; the approach towards Muslims at the present time is underlying hostility. The Western states only act according to benefit; Muslims and other minorities may indeed become the target of the pent-up fury that exists in these countries. The seeds of hatred have already been sown and perhaps the Western nations will feel the need to harvest the crop.
The West has no real way of addressing issues like racism and offers patchwork solutions that are not everlasting and can change with the political wind. Any right thinking Muslim cannot have the faintest hope that the West will tackle racism, Islamophobia and other societal ills from the root. They may indeed find themselves as the victims of increasingly ugly racist trends against Muslims and other minorities. The way racism and Islamophobia are dealt with in the West all depends on the fickle nature of Western politics and what is thought to be beneficial and politically expedient. The only hope for Muslims is the return of the Khilafah State that will implement the everlasting unchanging laws revealed by Allah (swt) the Rabb of the Universe. It will truly be the force that will practically turn back Islamophobia and protect Islam and Muslims wherever they maybe.
Allah (swt) reminds us “And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind” [TMQ 20:124]