Clinton and Trump Campaigns Both Fail To Live Up To American Values
When I joined the United States Marine Corps in 2011, my singular goal was to defend the American dream. Though I'm not religious, I believed then, as I do today, that every human being has the right to practice their faith freely and without persecution. I’ve been disturbed to hear blatant and subtle assertions from both political parties that curtailing religious freedoms for Muslims is essential to our national security. These statements imply that our values are somehow at odds with our long-term national security, that true religious freedom endangers our safety. I argue that our Bill of Rights is the core of our national security, and that to sacrifice the rights of American civilians to win political points is an attack on the safety and security of our nation.
RNC politicians have frequently used bigoted speech when talking about Islam. This past weekend Trump exchanged verbal blows with Ghazala and Khizr Khan, the parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, suggesting that Ghazala was perhaps “not allowed” to speak when she stood by her husband silently at the DNC. He's shuffled back and forth on policies that would restrict American Muslims from travel outside the country, or that would track all Muslims by their faith in a national registry. His views are in direct contrast with the American values my fellow veterans and I joined to uphold.
Trump is not the only one injecting anti-Muslim rhetoric into the political discourse. Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, another RNC speaker, has stated he is all for the electronic tagging of Muslims on no-fly and terror watch lists - lists for which “irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary,” and which frequently discriminate on the basis of faith. Additionally, Giuliani takes pride in his legacy of spying on Muslim houses of worship and community in New York City, which started during his tenure in 1994 and continued for over two decades.
This is a problem that extends to both parties. While the RNC's Islamophobia was worn on its sleeve, the DNC convention was full of its own brand of anti-Muslim rhetoric. On the first day of the DNC convention, Bill Clinton took the stage and during his speech declared, “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together.” American Muslims, in Clinton’s eyes, still need to prove their patriotism before they are embraced by their own government. The responsibility of preventing terror is placed on their shoulders as if they, somehow, had a better understanding of the inner workings of ISIL than the CIA or the FBI.
The following day Michael Bloomberg was given the podium. His history violating the constitutional rights of Muslims should have prevented him from being given the opportunity. During his tenure as mayor of NYC, Bloomberg expanded upon the surveillance of the Muslim community that Giuliani initiated. Every mosque within 100 miles of New York City was monitored, even reaching into New Jersey cities of Newark, New Brunswick, and others. It hurts beyond words to know that while I thought I was protecting Americans' constitutional rights as a Marine, my neighbors' rights were being violated at home.
It seems that both the RNC and DNC believe that in order to combat the nebulous threat of terrorism we must adopt concrete, stringent measures that curtail civil liberties. A casual glance over the last 15 years shows just how wrong this approach to national security is. Current NYPD commissioner William Bratton said of the mosque surveillance program "Not one single piece of actionable intelligence ever came out of that unit in its years of existence." And while the RNC features more outright anti-Muslim sentiment, at the end of the day it's been a Democrat led government pushing mass surveillance and war, two policy arenas that have devastated Muslim communities at home and abroad.
Limiting our freedoms will not make us more secure because it is precisely those freedoms that our security is built upon. My New Jersey Muslim friends and neighbors, who make up one of the largest such communities in the US, mistrust new attendees at their mosques and face the threat of hate crimes daily. As a New Jerseyan and a veteran it is my duty to call upon our elected officials and candidates with a simple request: do not throw American Muslims under the bus for your own political achievement. Live up to your highest American values.