The International Day of Tolerance

November 16 is International Day of Tolerance.

On September 1, 1995 the Declaration of Principles and Follow-up Plan of Action for the United Nations Year of Tolerance urgently encouraged member states, “not to fail upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” The current climate in the US feels like one of those historical moments where the intellectual and moral solidarity of humankind are urgently needed, not only to protect the most vulnerable, but also to guard our common human values for respect, dignity, and inclusivity.

Last Tuesday, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Overnight, people across the nation were already starting to feel the effects of a Trump presidency. By Monday, November 14 the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had counted 437 incidents of harassment and intimidation since Trump’s victory, the highest number occuring on November 9, the day after the election results. The SPLC highlighted anti-immigrant and anti-Black incidents were the most reported, followed by anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim incidents. Perhaps most disturbingly was that K-12 schools were listed as having the highest number of reported harassment incidents. Furthermore, in a recent FBI report, data shows that attacks against American Muslims increased last year by 67 percent compared to 2014, its highest total since 2001.

As we globally celebrate the International Day of Tolerance, we also affirmatively call for unwavering solidarity with all those Trump has, and aims to marginalize, through his campaign rhetoric as well as future policies.

Globally, and in the United States, we have learned that the pursuit of political power by some political figures has been fueled by exploiting and exacerbating the fear of the other in order to gain prominence, and power. The presidential campaign of Donald Trump capitalized on Islamophobia along with racism, xenophobia, misogyny, sexism, bigotry, and homophobia to mobilize part of the American voter population, and to win the presidency.

Indeed, Trump’s capture of the White House will challenge the global ideals of tolerance. For example, his campaign rhetoric, which depicts Muslims as the Other who do not belong in “our” society, cannot simply be understood in isolation or brushed-off as campaign slippages, but rather represent many years of deep-rooted attempts to demonize Islam and Muslims in the U.S. The evidence of such intolerant demagoguery is evident in the anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by Republican presidential candidates, who called for “registering Muslims into a database” and “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” and/or the outlandish fear mongering over the imposition of Sharia Law. The Islamophobia movement that has been thriving in the corridor of states’ legislatures now has a cheerleader in the White House.

We have to demand respect and equal treatment based on our constitutional rights, and we asked all targeted communities to not give into fear and hate, but to recognize their power that resides in their collective action towards a meaningful society where all belong and are respected

The Global Justice Program at the Haas Institute closely monitors exclusionary legislation related to Islamophobia and xenophobia, and for the past year a team of researchers has been working on an extensive report that maps out anti-Muslim, anti-Islam legislation, to be published in spring of 2017. The research documents and analyzes legislation in the US from 2000 to 2016 that has passed or failed, and legislation that is currently in the state and federal legislatures, that is designed to single out Muslim Americans and Muslim communities. Many of these are in the name of national security. Our report will identify patterns, trends, and shed light on the groups behind those bills, as well as examine the ramifications of anti-Muslim, anti-Islam legislation and its significance in the normalization of othering of Muslims.

The research aims to contribute to critical work already being implemented to challenge Islamophobia, and will include recommendations and toolkits to defend the civil and constitutional rights of Muslim Americans and Muslim communities. In addition, following the report release, we will be launching a comprehensive database that will include all research findings linked to the legislation. The database will be regularly updated and made accessible to the public in order to better serve the efforts of community organizers, advocates, researchers, legislators, public officials, and all who working to challenge Islamophobia and to defend the civil liberties of those targeted by anti-Muslim and anti-Islam policies and attitudes.

As we globally recognize International Day of Tolerance, we also affirmatively call for unwavering solidarity with all those Trump has, and aims to marginalize, through his campaign rhetoric and future policies. We have to demand respect and equal treatment based on our constitutional rights, and we encourage all targeted communities to not give into fear and hate, but to recognize the power that resides in their collective action towards a meaningful society where all belong and are respected (see Haas Institute 2016 Inclusiveness Index: Measuring Inclusion and Marginality).

The thoughts expressed here are not necessarily that of the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the University, not official, not predictable, and not of one mind. In the spirit of the Free Speech Movement, the thoughts expressed here are those of the individual authors.