Islamophobia animates Trump’s White House picks
Enas Almadhwahi, an immigration outreach organizer for the Arab American Association of New York, standing in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, Nov. 11. American Muslims are reeling over Donald Trump's victory, wondering what the next four years will bring after a campaign in which he proposed creating a national database of Muslims, monitoring all mosques and banning some or all Muslims from entering the country. Julie Jacobson | AP

President-elect Donald Trump’s words may be telling his supporters not to attack Muslims, but as he hires leaders of various white nationalist hate groups and Islamophobic war hawks to the White House staff, his actions appear to be saying otherwise.

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)  is monitoring a troubling spike in anti-Muslim and racist incidents since last Tuesday’s election. Additionally, Buzzfeed has a constantly-updated list of anti-Muslim, anti-Black racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant crimes and incidents.

Most recently Trump named Stephen Bannon, anti-Muslim conspiracist and leader of white nationalist and Islamophobic movements, on November 13 as a top adviser to his White House. “The appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top Trump administration strategist sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and White nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We urge President-elect Trump to reconsider this ill-advised appointment if he truly seeks to unite Americans.”

Fears of Muslim conspiracies and terrorist threats in the United States are overblown according to the data on such threats, and in contrast to the much greater numbers of terror incidents being perpetrated by white nationalists and white militia groups. Nonetheless, as scholar and observer of right-wing white nationalist groups Naomi Braine wrote in The Public Eye in 2015, such fears have real and dire consequences for Muslims living in the US. “Mainstream conservative politicians and media personalities protest depictions of right-wing militants as anything more than troubled but patriotic Americans, while Muslim men—particularly young men— are constantly monitored as intrinsic security risks. In the process, Muslims lose Constitutional protections for belief, speech, and association—forced to inhabit an ambiguous territory as ‘un-American’ and presumptively foreign.” Trump has spoken out in support of such fear-driven anti-Muslim tactics, and has promised to either ban the religion or to force all Muslims to “register” as part of his administration.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who early on hoped to become Trump’s running mate and now is reportedly being considered for a high level position in the administration, has done perhaps more than anyone in the conservative movement to stoke Islamophobia among right-wing leaders. Gingrich gave an interview with Fox News following the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France: “Western civilization is in a war,” Mr. Gingrich said. “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sharply denounced such religious tests and bans as unconstitutional.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, who is heading up Trump’s domestic policy team, is also a senior member of the secretive right-wing policy group Council on National Policy (CNP). The CNP “is especially remarkable because its membership has included a large number of extremists, people who regularly defame LGBT people with utter falsehoods, attack Muslims as dangerous enemies of freedom, engage in the kind of wild-eyed conspiracy theorizing for which the John Birch Society is famous, and even suggest that certain people should be stoned to death in line with Old Testament law.”

Anti-immigrant xenophobia and racism also characterize Trump’s picks. Kris Kobach, the most well-known of Trump’s anti-Islam and anti-immigrant White House hires, advises the SPLC-designated hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and has been the architect of voter suppression strategies in Kansas and already is promising to carry out Trump’s threat to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.”

Indeed, Trump’s hires, combined with his campaign pledges that would endanger American Muslims and their extended families both here and abroad, has the Muslim community reportedly feeling frightened and unsure of what to do next. Especially hard hit are families with young children, some of whom report that their kids’ friends at school have already begun ostracizing them.

Muslim community members who believe their rights have been violated are being asked to contact local police and CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at:




Mariya Strauss
Mariya Strauss

Mariya Strauss is a writer and labor and community activist who lives with her family in Baltimore, Maryland.