One of the dominant themes to emerge during last year’s presidential campaign was that Donald Trump posed a clear and present threat to Muslims in America. Both before and since his election, the news has been full of stories featuring Muslims who fear for their safety and well-being.
The odd thing is that many of the reports of violence have been wholly contrived.
There was the 18-year-old Muslim-American woman in New York Citywho claimed that a group of Trump supporters attacked her in December. She told police she was harassed on the subway and that her assailants tried to steal her hijab. She later confessed to having made the entire thing up.
Another example occurred at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where a student admitted to lying when she alleged that two men, one wearing a Trump hat, shouted obscenities at her, struck her with a metal object, knocked her down, and stole her wallet and hijab. Again, it was later revealed that the woman made up the story.
Then there’s the case of Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is known as the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal. She claimed after Trump’s inauguration that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had recently detained her for two hours without explanation.
This prompted numerous stories about how an American hero was detained as a result of President Trump’s immigration order, which temporarily barred citizens from seven countries infested by terrorists into the U.S. Then the truth came out:
Muhammad clarified that she was detained under the Obama administration.
The problem with all of these stories is that the media didn’t report the update -- the truth -- as vigorously as they did the original story, which was fake news. Even if they had, many Americans likely would not have heard about it. To paraphrase Mark Twain, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its hijab.
Meanwhile, the media myth that Trump’s America is somehow bigoted toward Muslims isn’t borne out by facts or reality.
A new Pew Research Center poll finds that “when it comes to religion, Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups today than they did just a few years ago.” Between June 2014 and last month, positive feelings toward Muslims rose from 40 percent to 48 percent. Among Republicans surveyed, positive views of Muslims increased six points over that time.
Americans are a tolerant and welcoming people. However, most Americans have the common sense to recognize the obvious -- that some part of Islam is at war with the West. And just because Americans do not want to admit people into the country who may be terrorists doesn’t mean they are xenophobic racists.
Many Americans simply want assurances that we aren’t allowing in jihadists or importing hatred. We want to know that we are keeping out those who reject fundamental American values of tolerance and religious liberty. We want to know that our policies will screen out anti-Semitism, which is prevalent throughout the Islamic world and a growing problem here in the U.S. FBI statistics show that Jews remain the most frequent targets of religiously motivated hate crimes. In fact, Jewish community centers have received scores of bomb threats in just the last six weeks, and even Jewish cemeteries are not immune to violence and desecration.
All of this is happening even as the domestic threat from radical Islam has grown. According to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League, 69 people died in 2016 as a result of homegrown extremist violence. That’s the most since 1995, when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred.
The high number was due mostly to the Orlando nightclub shooting, which took the lives of 49 people. That shooting, carried out by an Islamic terrorist who pledged his allegiance to ISIS, made Islamic extremism the deadliest ideology in America for the first time in 30 years.
Outside the U.S., it is Jews and Christians who are under siege, often at the hands of militant Muslims. Anti-Semitism is rising in Europe as more Muslims move in. And according to a new report by Open Doors USA, the persecution of Christians around the world is “at the worst levels… in modern times.”
That report echoed similar findings from the Center for Studies on New Religions, which estimated that 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016. It further found that as many as 600 million Christians were prevented from practicing their faith around the world.
A third report, this one by the persecution watchdog group Aid to the Church in Need, found in its 2016 report that 38 of 196 countries examined showed “unmistakable evidence” of significant religious freedom violations. What’s more, the report found that almost all of the most egregious violators of religious freedom have significant Muslim populations.
A record number of Muslim immigrants and refugees resettled in the U.S. in 2016. And I’ll make a prediction: many Muslims, desperate to escape the extremism of some of their co-religionists, will continue to clamor to enter the U.S. during Trump’s presidency. That’s because once the rhetoric is wiped away, America remains one of the most tolerant and welcoming places for people of any religion or ethnicity.