Following the horrific mass shooting on June 12 by an Afghan-American Muslim in Orlando, several key narratives have emerged about US society, such as the impact of lax gun control laws, prevalence of hate crimes and increasing hostility towards Muslims.
Leading the charge was Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president who wasted no time in launching into his usual fear-mongering. Disregarding reality, he claimed that the attack has taken place because the US has opened its borders to “thousands” of Muslims, including Syrian refugees. He then directed his opinions to the American Muslim community claiming that they as a whole are aware of potential attackers and purposely withhold information, an action that merits “consequences”. Trump’s opinions are supported to some degree by his Republican cohorts who continue to stand by him regardless of the bigoted rhetoric and dishonesty that have been a trademark of his electoral campaign.
At the other end of the spectrum, President Obama while delivering his 16th address to the nation in the wake of a mass shooting refused to lump an entire community with a killer whose motives still remain murky. Obama said that he was inspired by extremist ideology, but that there is no evidence directly linking him to the Islamic State. Hillary Clinton, too, spoke in measured words and pointed out that labeling and threatening communities would only result in more isolation and violence. Rather than attacking the millions of Muslims who call America home, it is more important than ever to build bridges and gain the trust of minorities. Both Obama and Clinton took a more nuanced approach in handling this issue, one that appeals to reason, and their efforts to prevent the demonisation of Muslims are appreciated. It can only be hoped that a public increasingly divided on key social issues will recognise the truth of these words and, in their grief, not turn to the brand of hate-filled politics being peddled by Trump and his ilk.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2016.
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