Failure to take action after Jan. 6 would be an existential threat to America

From an American Muslim perspective, the MAGA movement represents people who would rather burn down America than share it with all citizens equally.

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Rioters break into the Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. A far-right internet personality has pleaded guilty to joining the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, where he streamed live video that incriminated him and other rioters. Court records show that Anthime Gionet, known as “Baked Alaska” to his social media followers, faces a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment after pleading guilty on Friday, July 22, 2022.

Rioters break into the Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.

AP

The hearings held by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6th have laid bare to the world just how close the insurrectionists came to disrupting the peaceful transfer of presidential power in our country. The hearings have also highlighted how dangerous Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” ideology are to America’s continued survival as a democratic republic.

Trump kicked off his presidential campaign labeling the vast majority of Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers and rapists. His statements and actions from that day on have not only encouraged white supremacists, but also emboldened ordinary, everyday racists to proudly express their bigotry by stigmatizing and marginalizing immigrants and people of color under the guise of patriotism.

Thus, the Jan. 6 committee’s work is especially important as it is literally an indictment of what the MAGA movement stands for: an ideology that favors authoritarianism over democracy and racism over the guarantees of equal protection for all under our Constitution.

From an American Muslim perspective, in order to understand what Trump’s MAGA movement represents to us, one has to first appreciate the make-up of our community. According to a Pew Research study, the American Muslim community is almost 58% first generation (those who immigrated to the U.S.); 18% are second-generation (born here in the U.S.); and 24% are U.S. natives (those whose families have been here for multiple generations.)

First-generation American Muslims who fled tyranny, lack of freedom or lack of equal opportunity in their ancestral homes — whether it be Pakistan, India, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, or Iran — do not take democracy for granted. They know first-hand how fragile democracy really is and how quickly it can be lost if not properly preserved.

These Muslims watched in horror as then candidate-Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” based on his irrational fear that “Islam hates us.” Following these shockingly Islamophobic comments, upon being elected president, he instituted an arbitrary ban on all travelers from Muslim-majority countries, without exception for even the most desperate refugees trying to escape imminent death. 

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Second-generation American Muslims and their young kids see Trump’s MAGA movement as a direct threat to the full rights and protections guaranteed to them under the Constitution. During his presidential run, Trump seemed open to the shameful idea of creating a database of all Muslims in the U.S. Trump even rewarded Ben Carson with a cabinet position despite Carson’s highly offensive comments that he did not think a Muslim was fit to become president.

For the rest of the American Muslim community, comprising mostly Black Americans - the MAGA movement represents a renewed assault on their civil rights. Examples include: Trump’s derogatory behavior toward President Obama (son of an African Muslim man), breathing life into the birther movement, going back all the way to 2011, to Trump’s toxic comments and behavior toward the Black Lives Matter protestors, as well making abusive comments towards Black NFL players for protesting symbolically during games. In fact, FBI statistics show a distinct rise in hate speech since 2016, proving that Trump has given license to people to publicly act out on their hidden feelings.

To put it bluntly, from an American Muslim perspective, the MAGA movement represents people who would rather burn down America than share it with all citizens equally. If the thought leaders who created the fertile MAGA environment that allowed for the unprecedented attack on our Capitol are allowed to escape accountability, then there is literally nothing they will feel bound by as they further transgress America’s democratic values, norms and institutions. 

After the Jan. 6 committee presents its findings, our choices and their consequences are unambiguous:

Prosecute anyone found to have conspired to destroy our democracy and protect the most vulnerable members of our community (not just American Muslims, but Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and all other such minority communities) from an ideology that is a direct threat to their existence as Americans and the ideals of America itself.

Or, sacrifice America at the hands of shameless politicians who put their political careers ahead of their oath to the Constitution, and highlight to everyone that our democracy is only good as long as it serves the interests of the MAGA flag and to the republic for which it stands.

Salam Al-Marayati is the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). M. Faiyaz Hussain is the senior advisor of strategy, policy and programs for MPAC.

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