How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Politics of Hatred

What is happening in America today is beyond comprehension. The realization that there are homegrown Islamic terrorists who hate America so much that they would abandon their six-month-old child, go to a holiday party and kill 14 innocent people is beyond the pale. Equally outrageous is that, after this horrific act, presidential candidates made statements designed to play to our worst fears and prejudices and that run contrary to the basic principles on which this extraordinary country was built.

Espousing politics of hatred, Republican candidate Donald Trump has morphed into an outright xenophobic demagogue. You don't have to be a foreign policy maven to figure out that banning Muslims from entering this country will not eliminate the Islamic State (ISIS) or, for that matter, domestic terrorism. The hatred Trump is peddling will not play well among the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide (23 percent of the world's population) and will provide the "bad guys" with the ultimate tool to recruit more terrorists.

In his address to the nation after the Dec. 2 terrorist massacre in San Bernardino, President Barack Obama said: "Let's make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let's not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear." Implicit in this comment is the belief that if we abandon what makes America exceptional to defeat Islamic terrorism, they win. The Detroit Free Press made the same point in a front-page editorial assault on Trump under the headline "WE STAND TOGETHER." They wrote: "Vile bigotry against Muslims is an assault on our freedom, our community, and the diverse fabric that makes up Michigan.... So when Donald Trump says America should close its borders to Muslim immigrants, he's not just attacking a fundamental American strength. He's attacking us – our community, our neighbors." And I thought I'd never quote Dick Cheney in a positive way, but he got it right when he said, "I think this whole notion that somehow we just say no more Muslins, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in."

It's time for Americans to rise up against the politics of nativism, which will, no doubt, prompt bigotry and harassment of American Muslims. Trump is race-baiting and playing on our fears. We need to hear the clarion voices of reason and sanity coming from the Muslim community that is at present being muffled by Trump's bigotry.

On Nov. 12, I attended a packed interfaith Thanksgiving luncheon at Congregation St. David the King in West Windsor, sponsored by the Institute of Islamic Studies. Handouts and various presentations reaffirmed the importance, in the face of growing fear and divisiveness, that members of all religions "live by the values of common humanity: mutual respect, understanding, and compassion."

More specifically, in "Pray for Paris," the Islamic Studies Institute expressed its "condolences for all those impacted by these tragedies" and wrote that it "strongly condemns the attacks that took place. This senseless violence is totally unacceptable and against every value and tradition of all faiths. It is simply a tragic crime against all humanity. ... We speak as Muslims, as Americans and human beings who are committed to peace, healing, democracy and justice for all children and people of the world."

Trump's campaign has been a concatenation of everything that someone seeking the highest office in our nation should never do. He has played fast and loose with the truth and when someone points out that he is wrong, he either doubles down or lies about what he said. He has made fun of folks with disabilities — dangling his arms and mocking the actions of a disabled newspaper reporter. He has disparaged reporters and other candidates because of their looks and for other inane reason. And he has blatantly maligned Mexicans and Muslims.

Because of Trump's outrageous campaign, the other dividers in the race — Ted Cruz and Chris Christie — have managed to come across as less divisive than they really are. Cruz is Trump with a Princeton degree. And those of us in New Jersey know all too well the bullying behavior that has characterized Gov. Christie's tenure. We have become accustomed to hearing him lash out against journalists, teachers, union officials, judges and political opponents. We have heard him use terms such as "idiot," "jerk," "dope," and "numb nuts," and we have lived through Bridgegate, which, at its very least, was egregious abuse of power fostered by a chief executive who set the wrong tone in his administration.

And Christie's pattern of divisiveness continues to this day. Recently, the governor took a respite from his presidential campaign to come to New Jersey to urge the business community to draw swords with our state's 800,000 active and retired public employees over the pension payment on which the state reneged. Instead of calling for a compromise, in his indomitable manner, our governor labeled state workers "pigs."

To increase their chances of winning the 2016 presidency, various Republican candidates are willing to do almost anything to exploit the economic anxiety brought about by the hollowing out of the middle class and fears of another terrorist attack. Each of us needs to do our part to reject fear-mongering, demagoguery and religious tests. I intend to start by boycotting any product or establishment with Donald Trump's name on it.