I am a Muslim: Why Trump’s new U.S. ban on visitations cannot be accepted
by Allen Best
“I am a Muslim,” I told Cathy this morning. It was something I have been thinking of posting in my front yard. She didn’t understand. I’m a dishwater Christian, and she knows that. Having been reared in the occasionally fire-and-brimstone Baptist environment, I’m still finding my way spiritually.
Then I told her about the scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 movie, “Spartacus.” The Romans wanted the head of Spartacus, to make of him an example, and so had assembled the slaves who had revolted in a field. Who among you is Spartacus, the slaves were asked. Spartacus, played by Kirk Douglas, was starting to identify himself and meet his doom when another among them called out. “I’m Spartacus.” Then another: “I’m Spartacus.” And soon, the whole lot of slaves, several hundred or more, were identifying themselves as Spartacus.
It was an uplifting, climatic scene, but of course all these would-be Spartacuses ended up on the cross, down the road from Jesus.
A footnote is that the film’s screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, who grew up here in Colorado in Grand Junction. He was blacklisted as a film screenwriter at the time because Hollywood was too weak in the knee to stand up to the blustery moral cowardice of Joseph McCarthy.
So yesterday President Donald Trump borrowed a page from McCarthy, deciding that we will now make religion a measure of immigration.
Defenders will point to those who have Islam in their life portfolio as those who instigated massacres in the United States in the last few years: Boston, Chattanooga, Orlando and so on.
True enough, but you also find this in common: All were relatively young. Maybe limit immigrants to those over 40 or even 50? And if you look at all the massacres of the last 20 years in the United States, you will find a great many who have Christianity in their backgrounds. Maybe just accept Buddhists across our borders?
This is moving us in the wrong direction. President George W. Bush, despite some unwise foreign policy decisions, was wise enough, strong enough to say after 9/11: Our war is not with Islam. Our war is with terrorists. I admire Bush for that. It was a rational assessment.
On Thursday evening, I was at Beaver Creek, at the Vail Global Energy Forum, where I heard General Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency, talk about a great many things. He said that Islam is now at war with itself, just as Christianity was 400 years ago (with lingering violence until just a few years ago between Protestants and Catholics in places like Northern Ireland). We are not central to the conflict except that our interests in the oil reserves put us in the Middle East. Nearly all of the victims of this war have been Islamic. Despite the atrocious mass murders in Europe and the United States, very few of the individuals killed within this war have been of other faiths.
What is at stake here is what constitutes being an America. Our founders famously resisted any notion of having a state religion. Some will argue still today that this was just a wink-wink gesture, that in fact they were all Christians. Talk about bending the facts to suit your prejudices. Look in the U.S. Constitution: where is there mention of Christianity? They said there would be freedom of religion. Not sects of Christians, those who dunked in baptismal and those who went the dry route. Not those who thought dancing was the pathway to hell and those who wanted to square-dance at the whisper of a doh-si-doh. No, they said freedom of religion.
In fact, a great many of our original residents of the United States, most of them arriving here long before most of mine, came as members of Islam. I am talking about the slaves from Africa, of whom an estimated 25 percent were adherents of Islam.
In 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, ordered Americans of Japanese descent from along the West Coast be dispersed into concentration camps. I have been to the ruins of the one in Colorado, called Amache, which is located in the hardscrabble country along and above the Arkansas River, not far from the Kansas border. It was to places like this, surrounded by fences topped with barbed wire, that our fellow Americans were imprisoned for the duration of the war. It was a Republican, Ralph Carr, the governor of Colorado, who dissented, and it was a former Democratic governor, “Big” Ed Johnson who had supported and called for racial profiling a few years earlier during the Great Depression.
Now, it is a Republican president who is taking us in the wrong direction. He has no business categorically excluding adherents of Islam while including those professing Christianity. Do not blame me or credit me for posting a sign in my front yard. I have not done so yet. There is risk with such expression. At the very least, I would remove it when absent my home.
But if I can muster backbone, I will post a sign that says: “I am a Muslim.”