November 16th marks the 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 J. Trump was elected President of the United States. Overnight, people across the nation were already starting to feel the effects of a Trump presidency. As of Monday, November 14th the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had counted 437 incidents of harassment and intimidation since Trump’s presidential victory, the highest number having occurred on November 9th, the day after elections. The SPLC went on to highlight that anti-immigrant and anti-Black incidents were the most reported followed by anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim incidents, and disturbingly K-12 schools were listed as sites having the highest number of reported harassment. Furthermore, in a recent FBI report, data shows that attacks against American Muslims increased last year by 67 percent compared to 2014, reaching the highest total since 2001.
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 US. 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.
The Global Justice Program at the Haas Institute closely monitors exclusionary legislation particularly related to Islamophobia and xenophobia, and for the past year a team of researchers has been working on an extensive report that maps out all anti-Muslim, anti-Islam legislation and will be published in early spring of 2017. The report will document and analyze all anti-Muslim, anti-Islam legislation in the United States from 2000 to 2016 that has passed, failed, or legislation that is currently in the state and federal legislatures, that are designed to single out and other Muslim Americans and Muslim communities in the name of national security and U.S. patriotism. Our report will identify patterns, trends, 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 and fear of Muslims. The report 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, the Haas Institute 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, etc., to challenge Islamophobia, and to defend the civil liberties of those targeted by anti-Muslim and anti-Islam policies and attitudes.
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, and future policies. 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 (see Haas Institute 2016 Inclusiveness Index: Measuring Inclusion and Marginality).