This week, an Arabic billboard with a deep message denouncing Trump appeared on I-94.
Donald Trump, “can’t read this, but he is afraid of it,” the large ad says.
It is a nice gesture that grabbed headlines around the world.
However, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments run deeper than the Republican candidate’s bizarre rise to political prominence.
We say this not to defend Trump but to address the core of the issue. Denouncing Trump is easy. Challenging Islamophobia requires real, collective efforts.
The GOP nominee has made vile comments about Muslims, refugees and immigrants. His Muslim ban proposal was more extreme than any domestic anti-Muslim policy ever suggested by a serious presidential candidate.
However, Trump did not invent Islamophobia. And many of those slamming him for his bigotry today remained silent to all the blatant media and political attacks on the Muslim American community throughout the years.
What Trump did is unearth the hate and benefit from it. His numbers in the polls surged during the primaries after he called for banning Muslims from entering the United States last November.
He took advantage of the bigotry and misunderstanding that have been brewing in American society for years.
It is rather ironic that Bill Maher, for example, criticized the GOP candidate on the Muslim ban, when the comedian’s rhetoric has helped stoke the anti-Muslim wave that Trump rode all the way to the Republican nomination.
Almost a year before Trump announced his candidacy, Maher described Islam as a “mafia” that would kill you if you say the wrong thing.
Trump was not around when seven states passed absurd bans on Sharia law, furthering the false notion that Muslims want to impose their way of life on society, which would make them a threat to the U.S. Constitution.
Trump is a product of this irrational fear, not a cause for it.
The GOP candidate does not control intelligence agencies that pursue entrapment tactics to incriminate young Muslim men on terrorism charges, making it appear that their communities are a threat to their surrounding.
For the years after 9/11 politicians only discussed Muslim communities within the frame of national security.
Even Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, said Muslim communities “are on the front lines to identify and prevent attacks.” This is hardly a compliment.
All such remarks do is solidify the perception of an association between Muslim Americans and terrorism.
At this point, condemning Trump’s bigotry is as redundant as denouncing creepy clowns.
Trump looks set to lose the election. Our fellow Americans who stood for Muslims against the GOP nominee should address the sources of Islamophobia, which are rooted in White supremacy and fear of others.
It is a battle that may be more needed than ever after the election is over. Trump may lose, but his supporters who share his ideas are going nowhere and growing. With his confessed unwillingness to accept the outcome of the vote, bigots will be angrier than ever.
Americans at all level should speak out and confront prejudice — at the family’s dinner table, at places of worship, in political circles, in the media and in the ballot box, from municipal elections all the way to the top of the ticket.