Finally, a glimmer of hope emerges that Americans are tamping down their fears about terrorism enough to say no to one of the most corrosive ideas ever pitched by a major presidential candidate: Donald Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the U.S.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans overall reject the ban. The opposition is resounding among Democrats — 75 percent — but well over half of independents also say a ban goes too far. Even among Republicans, outright support stands at less than 40 percent.
There are signs of hope closer to home as well. Juba Coffee House, a family-owned Somali business in Grand Forks, N.D., was set ablaze earlier this week and the words “Go Home” scrawled on its walls. But within hours community members rallied, raising thousands of dollars to help with repairs, holding a candlelight vigil and assuring them they were valued.
In Minnesota, the story of an attorney who encountered hateful speech at a Vikings game has touched a nerve among many Minnesotans. Deepinder Mayell, coincidentally, is director of the Advocates for Human Rights’ Refugee and Immigrant Program, which provides free representation to low-income refugees. Mayell, initially shaken by the encounter and the lack of support from those around him at the game, says he has been overwhelmed by Minnesotans who have reached out since the commentary he wrote on the incident appeared in the Star Tribune. “People have shared their stories with me, and others have said ‘I’m going to stand up to this if I see this again,’ ” Mayell said in an interview with MPR.
One of the most difficult acts of courage is to face down one’s fears — particularly when they have some grounding in reality — and reach out to those whom others seek to demonize. Minnesotans face a bigger challenge than most because, while thousands of Muslims here are grateful for a fresh start and are loyal to their new homeland, a scattered few have succumbed to the beckoning of terrorist recruiters, making life even harder for those who wish only to live and worship in peace.
Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said he has been heartened by conversations both here and in Washington. “Even conservative Minnesotans have told me they find this disgusting,” he said. “We may argue over taxes and stuff, but this is too ugly. I know Minnesotans find this absolutely repulsive.”
Banning Muslims from this country will not make us safer, but it will tell Muslims around the world that America, a land that has drawn its strength from those who fled other countries, has given in to fear and is no longer willing to be a beacon for those yearning to break free from oppression.
That must not happen. Individuals must continue to rise up and tell the Trumps of the world “No.” The presidential campaign is no place for heedless demagogues who would turn us against one another, exploit vulnerable populations for their own gain and, in the end, jeopardize the very security we seek to preserve.