Will impeaching Donald Trump end Islamophobia?
Talks of impeaching Donald Trump seem to have been around since he got elected. He has already survived various allegations but this latest set of charges has gone the furthest, having passed through the House of Representatives and a judiciary committee.
The current impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump was initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosiy on September 24th 2019. A whistleblower alleged that Donald Trump abused the presidential powers by withholding military aid in order to pressure newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the activities of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Despite the allegations being upheld by the House of Representatives and the House Judiciary Committee, Americans remain polarised as to whether or not Trump should be impeached. The reality is that Trump, while divisive, remains an incredibly popular figure among Americans who view him as an anti-establishment president despite his wealth and long list of political ties.
Indeed Trump has been a figurehead for the alt-right which constantly engages and flirts with xenophobic immigration policies and racist rhetoric. One of Trump’s first acts as president was Executive Order 13768 titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’, more commonly referred to as the Muslim Ban. Trump has also propagated anti-Muslim sentiment and shared Islamophobic rhetoric used by others.
After the anti-Muslim New Zealand terrorist attacks in 2019, Trump took to his favourite method of communication, Twitter, to share articles from his favourite news site, Breitbart. I use the term ‘news site’ here very loosely. Breitbart has long been associated with the alt-right and has published much vile anti-Muslim hatred, from calling Muslims “rapefugees” to claiming that terrorist attacks are “an expression of mainstream Muslim values”.
Trump therefore is a champion of hate, especially against Muslims. Indeed many Muslim organisations have called for his impeachment, having seen the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks since his election. So will his impeachment really do anything about Islamophobia?
The short answer is no. Islamaphobia has long existed in the United States and will continue to do so even if Trump is gone. Indeed support for him did not come out of a vacuum. It is not as though Trump convinced the majority of an otherwise tolerant nation that Islam is bad and they all chose to agree. The alt-right movement is representative of the large anti-Muslim sentiment that has been bred for years through media and state actions.
Representation of Muslims as terrorists emerged after a series of political events in the late 1940s. America was involved in the establishment and legitimisation of the State of Israel which capitalised heavily upon portraying the Palestinians and other Arabs as terrorists. This narrative would be used to invalidate their claims to justice after their land had been forcibly seized.
Between 1949 and 2001, there were 45 Hollywood films that depicted specifically Palestinians as terrorists. Things have not improved much recently with shows such as 24 and Homeland depicting Muslims as terrorists garnering much critical and popular acclaim.
America’s foreign policy has long antagonised Muslims, from the CIA coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh to support for Israel in the 1973 October war against Egypt and Syria. Yet all retaliation to American foreign policy from Muslims has been dismissed as terrorism and proof that Muslims hate America, completely ignoring the role American actions played in creating that sentiment.
Donald Trump’s presidency is a culmination of this sentiment. Islamophobia in the United States is not new and will certainly not go away. Donald Trump with his undiplomatic ways and crass media dealings has only brought to the forefront what has always existed. Is it really surprising when you realize that Obama was the president who sent the most drone strikes and killed at least 800 civilians in those drone strikes all in the name of fighting “Islamic terrorism”? Is it really that surprising considering that George Bush started two illegal wars in order to fight “Islamic terrorism”?
Unfortunately, Donald Trump’s impeachment, even if it goes ahead, will not end decades of Islamophobia in America. Indeed the fact that he is being impeached for trying to instigate an investigation against his political rivals rather than his Muslim ban, which was a clear violation of the First Amendment, is proof of how deeply ingrained anti-Muslim sentiment is in the United States.