by John Nicols
"As a young journalist, I wrote a good deal about the rural Muslim and Jewish farm communities of the upper Midwest. I met the children and grandchildren of those Muslim farmers from the Dakotas, and from eastern Iowa, where the Mother Mosque of America was constructed in 1934 in Cedar Rapids. As a reporter for the Toledo Blade, I came to know Yehia “John” Shousher and other Muslims who built a pioneering mosque in the city’s “Little Syria” neighborhood more than six decades ago. Later, they constructed one of the great mosques in North America, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, at which people from dozens of countries proudly celebrate their community’s “equal and vibrant representation of women and the democratic and constitutional processes that the Center diligently follows.”
It is because I have spent so much time in these mosques, because I have for so long known them as part of the fabric of the communities where I have lived, of the rural regions I love, of an American experiment I have treasured, that I was so shaken by Donald Trump’s campaign claim that “there’s absolutely no choice” but to monitor mosques, to consider closing some of them, to begin tracking Muslims using “surveillance, including a watch list.”
It is for the same reason that so many of us were unsettled last week when Carl Higbie, a Trump surrogate, attempted to defend talk of a Muslim registry with a reference to the shameful treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. And the convoluted response to the controversy by Reince Priebus, Trump’s pick to serve as White House chief of staff, only made things worse. Even as Priebus tried to dismiss talk of a religious tests he spoke of targeting Muslim immigrants and announced: “Look, I’m not going to rule out anything.”
What Trump and his closest aides and allies are talking about is not public safety or responsible policing. It is broad-sweep stereotyping rooted in ignorance and cruelty."