Column: Fear, Islamophobia the new cards in Trump’s hand

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign rally Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 at Robarts Arena in Sarasota, Fla. Trump bragged about his high standing in the polls, slammed super PACS as "a scam" and dismissed nomination rivals Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in a campaign stop Saturday in their home state of Florida. (Steve Nesius/AP)

For the past few months, presidential candidate Donald Trump has been using radical policies to further his campaign, spreading ideas such as the notion that all Mexicans are criminals and pushing for the construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, among others. In doing so, Trump has been able to target a strong base of dedicated followers and supporters.

Recently, however, Trump has altered his tactics, making a dangerous choice to bolster his support with the fears of the American people. This choice was most obvious in his appeal to Islamophobia in a recent interview with NBC, in which he declared his support for an identification database for Muslims – a move strikingly similar to Hitler’s policy for Jews in Nazi Germany.

According to the NBC interview, Trump stated that he “would certainly implement” a database system that would track Muslims in the United States. All Muslims would be legally required to register in the database; however, penalties for noncompliance were not specified. Trump also did not object to “a form of special identification” that notes the religion of Muslim individuals, according to a New York Times report.

Reporters and citizens alike were astounded at the similarity between these policies and those implemented in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. During this time, in a fervor of anti-Semitism, Jews were forced to wear badges in the shape of the Star of David to identify them by their religious affiliation. The comparison between these approaches is clear, so much so that when an NBC reporter asked Trump to explain the difference between them, his only response was an annoyed, “You tell me.”

According to the New York Times piece, when asked to justify these policies, Trump reasoned that “we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.” This baseless claim completely ignores the personal security of Muslims, who have been hit by another tide of Islamophobia after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Much like the Jews of Nazi Germany and occupied territories, Muslims would feel isolated and targeted, breeding a perfect atmosphere for dehumanization, and potentially pushing affected Muslims toward radical groups like ISIS.

Trump has also disregarded one of the fundamental concepts of the Republican Party, religious freedom, through his own radicalism. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Conservatives have historically rallied around this idea, and yet Trump wishes to dismiss religious freedom in favor of unfounded discrimination against a perceived threat.

Trump’s comments, along with a claim that Muslims were seen celebrating after the September 11, 2001 attacks and a proposition to introduce surveillance in mosques, have caused Trump’s poll ratings to drop 12 points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. However, a large part of his support base remains loyal, despite these fascist ideas, so the question is: where is the appeal?

The answer is put most simply in the words of former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: “People rally to strength.” Amid the recent surge in terrorist attacks and the widespread fear, Trump can provide the image of strength, no matter how false that image may be. Just as Hitler labeled Jews as a domestic threat in the 1930s, Trump is targeting Muslims as a common enemy and providing Americans with a plan for protection from them. If that plan can provide the slightest fantasy of success, then many people will support it, leaving Trump with an alarming amount of power over American voters.

There are few things more dangerous than a campaign fueled by fear and hatred. Not only do Trump’s propositions encourage discrimination and promote Islamophobia, but they also create a demonized depiction of Muslims that has no place in a presidential election or in the United States as a whole. These views and policies would be ineffective in countering terrorism and would create an atmosphere of vulnerability and injustice for Muslims.

American citizens cannot afford to be manipulated by Trump’s appeals to feverish paranoia; they must instead protect the freedoms of their fellow citizens and unify against the real threats that terrorism poses to the United States.


Alex Oliveira is a contributor to the Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alexandra.oliveira@uconn.edu.