Trump Wants You To Think All Muslims Hate Jews. Take It From A U.S. Marine: That's a Blatant Lie | Opinion

To some public figures in our country, it's forever open season on Muslims in America. Jeannine Pirro, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and even our President continue to disingenuously portray Islam as a threat to all Americans. But should you really fear the brown guy sitting next to you on the airplane (and Muslims come in all skin colors); your Muslim coworker, the kid at school with the "funny" name, your next-door neighbor?

Muslims currently make up a little over 1 percent of the total U.S. population. The fact that their representation has finally started making headway in our government has triggered hysteria that shows no signs of abating, particularly amongst the many Republicans who seem to be making some shabby sort of career out of bullying Muslims and immigrants.

But President Trump and his loyal supporters aren't just bullying a minority, though this would have been bad enough. They are pitting their fellow Americans against one another, sowing division that undermines everything we're supposed to stand for as a country.

There is no shortage of examples, but one in which Trump managed to offend both Jews and Muslims in the same breath readily springs to mind. At a press conference last month, he went on this memorable tangent: "...where has the Democratic Party gone, where have they gone, where their defending these two people [ Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib] over the State of Israel. And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."

The statement sent shockwaves throughout America. Both Jewish and Muslim Americans felt targeted by the Presidents comments. Jewish Americans that voted in favor of Democrats were being labeled as "disloyal" to the United States. Muslim Americans sat horrified at the onslaught of yet another Islamophobic attack by their President.

Pitting Americans against one another goes against the core principles instilled in me as a United States Marine. And questioning the loyalty of both Jewish and Muslim Americans to America by invoking the "you're either with us, or against us" mindset is a dangerous game that puts the very core of what America is supposed to be about at risk.

Trump, of course, is not alone. On the same day, Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama rushed to follow suit during an interview on The Jeff Poor Show. When asked about the "trend in the Democratic Party" on the U.S. alliance with Israel, Brooks responded, "There is, and I think it's based on the growing influence of the Islamic religion in the Democratic ranks. Keep in mind – Muslims more so than most people have great animosity towards Israel and the Jewish faith. As you have more and more Muslims in the United States, as they gain greater and greater influence in elections, particularly in Democratic Party primaries – then you're going to have more people like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and company that are anti-Israel..."

Representative Brooks' hate-filled and bigoted statement didn't require much dissecting – it's clear as day. These words were clearly meant to instigate further conflict between Jewish and Muslim Americans. So it came as no surprise last week when the Alabama Republican Party, under the Chairmanship of Terry Lathan, passed a resolution during their summer meeting to work for the expulsion of Rep. Ilhan Omar from Congress. The main explanation behind the action – the views Rep. Omar holds towards Israel.

And if the actions of the Alabama state representatives weren't alarming enough, in an unprecedented move, Israel itself took the unusual step of barring Rep. Omar and Tlaib from what was suppose to be a landmark, long scheduled visit by the two representatives.

As a Muslim-American and a U.S. Marine Veteran, it's hard not to feel disappointed not just with such statements by our elected leaders but with the utterly uncalled-for action by Israel. Israel is supposed to be America's closest ally and prides itself on democratic values, but it decided to bar not just any two individuals, but two duly elected representatives of Congress from crossing its borders. Even if we put aside the context of the faith shared by Reps. Omar and Tlaib, this was no less then a slap on the face of American democracy.

Americans largely uneducated when it comes to Islam continue to be misled into believing Muslims hate Jews and Israel. And so it seems to be no coincidence the words Jews and Israel continue to be deceptively used interchangeably by both right wing Israeli politicians and American politicians alike. President Trump recently tweeted, "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds."

To set the record straight, whatever individual Muslims and Jews might have done to each other over the centuries, there is absolutely zero built-in beef between Judaism and the Islamic faith. Muslims revere the articulator of many of Judaism's tenets—Moses—as one of the greatest prophets to have ever lived. The Holy Quran itself states, "Allah (God) said, 'O Moses, I have chosen thee above the people of thy time by My messages and by My word (7:145)."

Not believing in Moses and his prophetic life is akin to not being Muslim. So associating Islam and hate for all Jewish people is simply outlandish. We hear a lot about the Judeo-Christian civilization, but Judaism and Islam are also both Abrahamic faiths; Jews and Muslims are like brethren. The Holy Quran specifically talks of Jews entering the gates of heaven.

Agreed, the never-ending Israel and Palestine debacle is a serious issue. The complex challenges surrounding competing secular nationalisms, continued illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by the Israeli government (as per several United Nations resolutions), numerous territorial disputes, decades of political violence, and relentless attention from foreign powers have led to endless suffering. And sadly, certain fringe religious groups of both Jews and Muslims have also taken advantage by playing their part in stirring religious animosity and division to fit their own political agendas or deeply skewed understandings of the ancient faiths. But simply reducing the intricately complex conflict to religion is not only grotesque but wrong, deceitful and dishonest in every way.

For my part, I am a proud Muslim American. I live in a largely Jewish community, and my two youngest children (along with those from other Muslim families) attended a church-based pre-school over the past two years. Our community is a living refutation of the notion that all Jews, Christians and Muslims should or do hate and fear one another. The fact is, whatever disagreements or violence might have occurred between Jewish and Muslim theologians and even communities over the years, no Islamic teaching contains justification, least of all incitement, of hatred for anyone in our world; and any historic discriminatory and sectarian practices committed in the name of Islam fail to live up to the core of our religion. And whether you opt to believe me or not is your choice.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

Hindsight isn't always 20/20, but it seems Jefferson was on point when he saw zero conflict of interest between an individual's beliefs and faith, and his or hers duty to their country and Constitution. It's long past time we began learning anew how to see each other as Americans, Americans, Americans first and foremost—without prejudiced, groundless assumptions of disloyalty.

Mansoor Shams is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, the founder of MuslimMarine.org, a public speaker and Term Member on the Council on Foreign Relations. Twitter: @mansoortshams

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​

Trump Wants You To Think All Muslims Hate Jews. Take It From A U.S. Marine: That's a Blatant Lie | Opinion | Opinion
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