Last night, Donald Trump flirted with white supremacy once again, claiming to Anderson Cooper that — referring to the entire religion — “Islam hates us.” His latest remarks about Islam are part of a long-running effort to signal to his supporters that he positions himself against Muslims as a group, and not just the efforts to fight violent terrorist groups.
“I think Islam hates us. There’s something tremendous there that hates us,” said Trump. But what, exactly? He doesn’t know. Asked by Anderson Cooper whether he meant that hate was within Islam itself, Trump placed the onus on the media: “You’re gonna have to figure that out, OK?”
In response, the Council American-Islamic Relations held a press conference today demanding an apology from Trump. “Im here to tell you you haven’t done your due diligence on Islam because you know nothing about our religion,” said Kristin Szremski, Director of Media and Communications at American Muslims for Palestine. She was among several spokespeople from an array of American Muslim advocacy and civic groups who joined CAIR in demanding an apology from Trump. “You are thinking this will get you to the presidency. You think the ends justify the means. But you are harming my community.”
Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Staff Attorney Yolanda Rondon issued a similar denunciation of Trump. “There is no us versus them, there is no other. That divide and conquer tactic won’t work. We are all Americans, and we must all defend these ideals,” she said. “He knows his statements and policies have a direct impact on our community and we can take it no more.”
“Our message is not to Donald Trump, its to moderate Americans. Like you, we’re tired of all this extremist rhetoric about Islam being at war with the West and vice versa,” said Rabiah Ahmed, Media and Communications Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “We are also tired of being talked at and spoken for. We are tired of being misrepresented. We are tired of defending ourselves against extremist rhetoric from both ends.”
That Trump, who has consistently demonized the media, now wants that same media to “figure it out” is yet another opportunity for him to claim plausible deniability later down the road. The public has already seen how this will play out: After failing to denounce David Duke’s endorsement, Trump blamed it on a faulty earpiece. The initial interview, just like his interview with Cooper yesterday, served as a screeching dog whistle to the darkest parts of his base.
This hasn’t stopped Trump’s allies from rushing to explain his remarks. Andy Dean, once a candidate on The Apprentice, repeatedly claimed during two different appearances on CNN that it was the “Islamic culture of hatred in the Middle East” that caused Trump to say that the religion, along with all of its adherents, hates Americans. He cited a Pew poll of 39 countries examining Muslims’ views on women’s rights and Israel as proof.
That same poll, however, reveals numerous contradictions to Trump and his supporters’ views on Islam. More than 85 percent of all those polled supported religious freedom. More than half of Muslims were worried about Islamic fundamentalist groups — more than the percentage of Americans that were — probably because the overwhelming majority of victims of fundamentalist terrorism are Muslims. In the vast majority of countries polled, more than half of respondents said they preferred democracy to a “strong leader.”.
Dean switched his justification for Trump’s comments on a later appearance on The Lead with Jake Tapper. “This is about women’s rights,” he said, defending the man who said Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” and said that Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle was the reason he was singled out for tough questions during the first Republican debate. He even claimed women in majority Muslims counties could be killed for demanding a divorce. But, again, the same Pew poll he used as justification for Trump’s remarks revealed that the majority of respondents believed in a woman’s right to initiate a divorce.
Donald Trump has run two parallel campaigns: one that claims he is the smartest, most qualified, and most respected businessman in the world — which the most cursory glance at his writings, speeches, or business record will disprove — and another that claims Islam itself hates America while feigning ignorance of David Duke and his affiliations with the KKK and other white supremacist organizations. The more Trump embraces this latter narrative, the more dangerous his campaign will make this country for minorities of all races and ethnicities.