By Umar Lee
The terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, hit the Pentagon in Virginia, and left a plane and its passengers scattered across a Pennsylvania field, occurred more than fourteen years ago. Yet, despite 9-11 being so far in the rear view mirror, American-Muslims being a staple of modern America, and only a handful of minor incidents since, Islamophobia is now at an all time high.
Much of this is a result of the Islamophobia industry which has been well-documented on this site. I certainly don’t wanna downplay the negative impact of the Islamophobia industry and the agents of hate. However, these forces of hate have been at it for years, so why the uptick in Islamophobia? Is Donald Trump to blame? Yes, he partially is, but why did he find such an eager audience?
I’ll trace the resurgence in Islamophobia back to August 9 of 2014. In the small municipality of Ferguson in northern region of St. Louis County, Missouri, a young man by the name of Mike Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Mike Brown laid on the ground for hours in the Canfield Green apartment complex dead in his own blood as a crowd of mourners gathered. Tensions flared that night and the next night the streets of North St. Louis County exploded in anger and grief. A movement was born. A movement which at that moment was united and later became divided.
Darren Wilson took a life and never served an hour in jail. With my two arrests in Ferguson (I grew-up in the area) I served more jail time than Wilson. I grew-up in the racial-tension of North County and it defined our lives and it was now on an international stage. Mike Brown was African-American like most Ferguson residents and Darren Wilson white like most Ferguson cops.
While a movement emerged seeking justice for Mike Brown and other victims of police violence and repression another movement emerged in defense of Darren Wilson and police. This pro-police movement produced an army of trolls on social media sending out threats and engaging in outright racist language. As the weeks went on the hate speech increased and it got nastier.
While a segment of protesters and supporters began using the language of intersectional struggle (this segment of protesters associated with Black Lives Matter) the other side began engaging in their own version of intersectional thought.
Researching many of the most vocal pro-police trolls I discovered in addition to their anti-black racism many were also active in efforts against Muslims, Latino immigrants, and others. When these trolls noticed the prominence of Muslim protesters such as myself, Bassem Masri, Talal Ahmad, Anthony Shahid, Mustafa Abdullah, and others it sent them into a particular frenzy of hate. I received dozens of graphic death threats, had the address of my grandparents published online, and was fired from my job because of the harassment of these trolls.
Today these trolls are still attacking protesters; but they’ve found new energy in their attacks on Syrian refugees and new champions in Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
It was Ferguson that gave the army of hate it’s new level of vigor. The sight of people in the street demanding justice frightened them. Energized, this same army is now equally focused on Muslims.
In America you’re a part of White Supremacy or you’re a threat to it. Muslims, in whatever form of Islam we choose to practice from Salafeeyah to watered down Me Tooism, are a threat to White Supremacy. The message of Islam destroys White Supremacy. The life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is an indictment against White Supremacy and the voices of Muslims must be silenced in their minds.
Just as the enemies of Islam have made common cause with those who oppose Latino immigration, African-Americans, and advocates for police reform, so to Muslims must form alliances with those with whom we share a common enemy.