Opinion: Trump’s Silence About Chechnya Exposes the Hypocrisy of His Views on Islam

In August of 2016, President Trump delivered an impassioned speech wherein he lamented on the horrors of terrorism, radicalization, and subsequent human rights abuses. He referenced the San Bernardino shooting and Charlie Hebdo attacks, as well as the Orlando massacre, which he accurately described as the “worst mass shooting in our history, and the worst attack on the LGTBQ community in our history.” These tragedies served as a justification for Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stance, with Trump stating that “we will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.”

As Trump entered his administration, he remained steadfast in his commitment to quell “radical Islamic terrorism” (a term considered by many, including Trump’s own national security advisor, to be an offensive misnomer), and continued to senselessly and unconstitutionally target Muslims in a series of religiously based travel bans.

As we speak, gay men in Chechnya are being rounded up, tortured, and beaten to death in full fledged concentration camps under the perverted pretext of religion. But Trump, who expressed such adamant sympathy for the victims of terror around the world, remains silent in the midst of a twenty-first century pogrom. While ambassador Nikki Haley has publicly acknowledged and condemned the attacks, the ongoing horror has received relatively little reaction from Trump’s administration (which prompted a congressional petition to Rex Tillerson to condemn Chechnya’s actions) and none from Trump himself. In fact, a Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated at press conference this week that she was “unaware” if Trump even knew it was happening.

From a London protest against the Chechnyan pogrom. Courtesy of Bex Wade for Dazed Digital.

This is more than hypocrisy. It is a death sentence wrapped in silence. While a significant portion of Trump’s political identity has been predicated upon fabricating hateful myths about Islam and terrorism, he will not acknowledge true, horrific terror as it happens right in front of us. Chechnya is not Bowling Green — Chechnyan president Ramzan Kadyrov has “promised to wipe out gay men from the region by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan”.

So where is the outrage? Chechnya is a country with a vast Muslim majority, meaning that many of these victims are likely Muslim. Thus, is it Trump’s view that we only acknowledge terrorism when the victims are not Muslim themselves? Such an idea wouldn’t be inconsistent with the administration’s larger treatment of ISIS — the majority of whose victims are Muslim — which in many ways paints the organization as one that only threatens the Christian West.

Or, perhaps the radio silence is a result of Kadyrov’s close relationship with President Putin, a leader who has enacted his own draconian laws on Russia’s gay population largely as a result of his own country’s religious convictions.

Either way, there is no excuse for Trump to wait a second longer in publicly disgracing Chechnya’s concentration camps. Terrorism and its victims are of no one, particular face: the gay men in Chechnya who are being electrocuted and starved are the brothers of the LGBT people murdered in cold blood in Orlando. So the question remains: is Trump anti-terror or just anti-Muslim?

Trump is not burdened with the responsibility to actively respond to every act of terrorism that occurs in the world, but he does bear the basic, presidential cross of at least acknowledging mass atrocity when it occurs — especially when he has formed a uniquely polemic ideology where similar atrocities have served as the basis for his policies. America cannot exorcise false demons while watching the true monsters ravage the world with glassy, nescient eyes.

Or maybe Sarah Huckabee Sanders is right. Maybe he just doesn’t know.

Here’s an article that helps lay out how you can help the heartbreaking situation in Chechnya: http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2017/04/20/gay_and_bi_men_in_chechnya_need_your_help_here_are_some_options.html

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