During a recent interview with Yahoo News, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked whether tracking Muslims would mean creating a database or providing them with special identification. His reply was, “We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely.”
Despite brisk condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans and various organizations, one thing that very few people are noting is that these databases are not speculative. Trump’s comments are only indicative of the nature of contemporary U.S. policies toward Muslims.
An Associated Press investigative report in 2011 revealed that the NYPD has meticulously surveilled and built databases of various Muslim student organizations, mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and more within Muslim communities. Some of the tactics used by uncover police officers and agents included compiling lists of “customers visiting Dunkin’ Donuts after Friday Prayer” and “employees or customers of establishments observed wearing ‘traditional clothes’.” They also mapped the “locations of mosques, restaurants, retail establishments and schools owned by or serving both Muslims and ethnic populations from heavily Muslim countries,” according to a lawsuit against New York City.
Policies that criminalize Muslims existed under President George W. Bush, and continue to expand under President Barack Obama through his domestic and foreign initiatives. You can clearly see this is a bipartisan issue. The policies used to target and malign Muslim communities in the U.S. under the “Countering Violent Extremism” program are also utilized to dehumanize and target Muslim civilians abroad.
According to documents uncovered by The Intercept, there were periods of time when “nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.” When our foreign and domestic policies assume that terrorism is rooted within people based simply on religious identity, it leads to the entrapment and unjust incarceration of Muslims in the United States and to the murder of Muslim civilians abroad by U.S. forces.
In addition to these policies, the reality of living as a Muslim in the U.S. is not lost on many Muslims. Our names and appearances already mean we must undergo extra scrutiny at airports, our headscarves call extra attention to our religious identity, and there those who get mistaken for being Muslim and face similar harassment and violence. Our “special” identification is an already-present phenomenon exacerbated by these policies and by the mainstream media that continue to perpetuate mistruths.
This is the crucial moment to highlight the reality behind Trump’s comments and push back against this increasingly Nazi-esque tactic to criminalize an entire population based on their religious affiliation.