I will be the first to admit America is far from perfect. Our systems are flawed, our minorities are ignored, and our policies can be problematic and confusing. With all this happening, it is easy to forget there are many positive aspects of our nation. As every grade-school child learns, America was founded on the basis of religious freedom. The separation of church and state has long been one of our foremost values. We are taught that America is a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities, and this makes our country especially strong.
Unfortunately, this is not the whole story. Religious hatred and Islamophobia have always existed in America, and have now become a vehicle for power harnessed by Donald Trump. The ban on anyone from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States was instantly seen for what it was – a ban on Muslim people. This is not surprising, considering that in early December of last year Donald Trump declared a very similar sounding ban. “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Despite this crystal-clear evidence of his intentions, Trump denies that his newest executive order has anything to do with religion. In a statement published on Sunday, Trump declares, “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
As per usual, his short-tempered tweets tell a different story. The same day that the previous statement appeared, Donald Trump tweeted, “Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!” This seemingly benign statement sent up a multitude of red flags. First and foremost is the assumption that specifically Christians are being targeted. It is no secret that Trump’s target audience consists of white, middle-class Christians. He is clearly pandering to this demographic by convincing them that people are attempting to kill them. In many cases, ISIS and other radical militant groups are trying to brew terror by attacking people indiscriminately. It is true the group is targeting Christians – but they are also targeting non-radical Muslims, particularly Shiite Muslims, the Yazidis, Turkmen, the governments of Iran, Iraq, and Syria, Americans, allies of the United States, and pretty much all Westerners. And that is not even a comprehensive list! This leads to the second red flag; rather than calling out ISIS or terrorist groups, Donald Trump blames the executions carried out by radical terrorist groups on an entire geographic location consisting of hundreds of millions of people. This is an absurd attempt to scapegoat people of the Middle East for the actions of a few.
So why is Donald Trump convincing Christians that ISIS is after them? Power. Nothing motivates people more than fear. The more that Trump can convince Americans that someone is after them, the more likely people are to look to him for guidance. To Trump, this is nothing more than an economics game. This should not be a surprise, considering his long history of doing anything he can to make as much money as possible, but in case you need further evidence: The seven countries that were listed in the travel ban are those which have little or no economic ties with Donald Trump’s businesses. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE—all countries where Donald Trump has done business that were not on the list. It is clear that he will continue to brew hatred so long as it does not affect his wealth.