In the face of President Trump’s executive order, Americans seem to be suffering a sort of “public amnesia” regarding the Obama Administration’s policies, said Prof. Moustafa Bayoumi, English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York in a lecture Wednesday night.
Islamophobia and Muslim-targeting legislation did not begin with President Trump’s “Muslim ban,” Bayoumi said. Rather, the United States has a longer history of Muslim-targeting policies, of which the Obama Administration is not exempt.
Bayoumi discussed several American policies implemented in the years post-9/11 designed to preemptively target and profile Muslim Americans for terrorist affiliations. One such project, an NYPD surveillance program assisted by the CIA, monitored minute aspects of the everyday lives of Muslims in the tri-state area with no probable cause, he said.
“The government is supposed to be public with their affairs so that the citizenry can have a private life,” Bayoumi said. “And in fact what’s asked for in our post 9/11 world, especially from muslim Americans, is that Muslim Americans have to live their lives very, very publicly and the government operates more and more in extreme secrecy.”
While Islamophobia in no way began with President Trump, Bayoumi stressed that the Trump administration has certainly propagated these polarizing sentiments.
“In Trump’s universe, the wicked perform evil violence, and the good carry out righteous violence,” he said. “And yet still American innocence will still prevail.”
Bayoumi also criticized the United States’ simultaneous involvement in Yemen’s civil war — most recently in a Navy Seal raid last week — and banning of its refugees through President Trump’s executive order, even comparing the ban to refoulement.
“Now [banning Yemeni refugees] may not exactly fit the legal definition of refoulement — the forcible return of asylum seekers to the countries they are fleeing — but it’s close enough, to my mind at least,” Bayoumi said. “It makes this executive order, supposedly premised on the notion of security, worthless.”
The average American’s perception of Islam plays an important role in the proliferation of Islamophobia today, according to Bayoumi.
“Most Americans, and at least I can say this from my own personal experience, still don’t know the difference between an Arab and a Muslim,” he said.
Bayoumi believes “America needs this version of Islam,” using it as a way to project its own violence.
“America has a terrible time of admitting the violence that it purveys, the violence that will likely produce more violence,” he said.
However, Bayoumi said he sees the recent airport protests, demonstrations and general public upset at President Trump’s executive order as signs of hope that change for Muslim Americans may be achieved in a “search for true security for all.”
“I discovered the possibility that alliances that are true friendships created across the various borders of our realities of our geographies, our identities and that these alliances create the very society that our indignation wants for,” Bayoumi said.