"First They Came for the Muslims": Islamophobia Threatens Everyone
They came first for the Communists,
and I did not speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak up, because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I did not speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time, no one was left to speak up for me.”
— Pastor Martin Niemöller
By Claire Bernish
Myriad versions of Pastor Niemöller’s original quote began circulating in the late 1940s and early 1950s, yet his exhortative words on the perilous pitfalls of political and social apathy couldn’t be more germane than they are today. Niemöller originally intended to warn against passive detachment in believing dangerous power persecuting one group wouldn’t eventually seek to target all, as occurred during the Nazis’ rise to power.
First They Came for the Muslims . . .
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” spouted the presidential candidate during a press conference about his latest ‘official’ policy proposal — referring to himself in the third person — “until our representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
As Trump continues spewing such bigoted, anti-Muslim dogma in his quest for the ostensible highest position of power in the so-called Free World, Niemöller’s admonitory words must be revisited — without even the most negligible That Would Never Happen Here caveat. Because, should you think fascism won’t come to the U.S., you are already wrong.
In It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis penned, in part, “[I]n America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst fascists were they who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism . . .” — a quote most famously summarized: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
How appropriate, given Trump’s astonishingly xenophobic ignorance of Islam and his blindly paranoid assumption — held in common with an unfortunate proportion of the U.S. populace — that somehow Muslim equals Terrorist.
Nevermind the outright condemnation of radical Islam by the world’s largest Muslim group as policy since its inception 90 years ago.
Nevermind a Christian terrorist who recently bombed a women’s health clinic in Colorado. Nevermind Buddhist terrorists and their campaign of torment against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Nevermind Jewish terrorists whose unending violence against Palestinians garners more than sufficient reason for the U.S. government to cut ties and impose sanctions, rather than reward atrocity with unending financial support.
And, certainly, nevermind U.S. proxy-terrorism worldwide — characterized, at least, in its purposeful targeting of a Médicins Sans Frontières hospital facility in Kunduz, Afghanistan; or tellingly in its tacit, complicit creation of the exact terrorists, Daesh, it now claims to do battle with in the Middle East.
Fascism not only totes a Bible and wraps itself in the flag, it also makes fools of those who fear the nearly impossible odds a Muslim refugee will perpetrate an act of terrorism here. It cloaks itself in a growing superhero cape of we need to clamp down on national security: Build that wall! Shut those borders! No Amurican could possibly commit an act of terror, so we’ll be safe in this cocoon!
Wait — maybe we should keep track of people inside the borders, too! I mean, what if the terrorists are already here?! What about national ID cards so we know who the Muslims are, just like Trump said we need?
Hopefully, you see not only the basic logical fallacies, but the fear-driven idiocy in such musings.
If you don’t immediately have chills hearkening back to Nazi-mandated arm bands classifying undesirables in the lead-up to World War II, you need to start paying more attention.
“There were no minutes or copy of what I said,” Niemöller recollected in 1976, “and it may be that I formulated it differently. But the idea was, anyhow: The communists, we still let that happen calmly; and the trade unions, we still let that happen; and we even let the Social Democrats happen. All of that was not our affair.”
. . . and then they came for me — but by that time,
no one was left to speak up for me.
Pastor Martin Niemöller is surely weeping in his grave.