In the wake of the attacks in Paris, the political climate of the world is at the most tense it has been in recent history. Militaries are arming for war, families are burying loved ones and Muslims everywhere are learning the sting of persecution. Meanwhile, politicians in America are using cheap politics to contort an international tragedy into tactless campaign fodder.
On Nov. 13, terrorists attacked Paris —bombs and shootings whose ripples were felt throughout the world. The attack was claimed by ISIS, the terrorist group that is known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This extremist group seeks to lead a Jihad, or holy war, against unbelievers, by turning the world against Muslims. With the reaction to the most recent terrorist attacks being one of blind hatred and false phobias, ISIS may soon have its wish fulfilled.
Every popular 2016 presidential candidate went to social media as soon as the attacks were publicized. The candidates largely stuck to heartfelt offers of prayers and condolences, with the exception being Donald Trump. “They laughed at me when I said to bomb the ISIS controlled oil fields. Now they are not laughing and doing what I said,” tweets Trump in an almost juvenile statement of “I told you so.” Several hours later, Trump caught up to his colleagues in expressing empathy for France by tweeting that his prayers are with the victims of the attacks.
What is a politician like Trump’s duty in the face of a tragedy as immense as the Paris attacks? First and foremost, an “I told you so” is never appropriate with hundreds who lie dead or dying. The only message a candidate should send in the day or two following such an incident is one of empathy and support. On these points, Trump failed in his duties — not only because he used fresh tragedy to promote his agenda, but because he didn’t first acknowledge the world’s loss. While proposing action in response to the tragedy is completely acceptable, it is uncouth to do so while the tragedy is still occurring. It is equally rude to advocate for changes in the past, as Trump did, because the past cannot be changed. Trump should have waited a day or two, then released a statement saying something along the lines of, “It is clear that we cannot remain passive against the threat of ISIS. We need to bomb their oil fields,” and allowed others to realize he had been saying that all along, whether he is right or wrong. Then, he would have appeared noble for not exploiting his momentary triumph, and fit to lead by having a plan of action. Now, however, he appears petulant and immature.
The biggest talk among politicians and candidates these days is that of Syrian refugees. In the days and weeks following the Paris attacks, Trump continued to express his negativity about accepting any Syrian refugees into the United States, going as far as to say only Christians could even be considered for refugee status. To convince the nation that his ideas are the correct ones, Trump draws on people’s fear of a Paris-like attack from terrorists disguised as refugees. He is convincing thousands of Americans that Muslims wish ill upon America, and that they are dangerous individuals. At a time when fear and despair are running rampant, however, it is crucial that politicians avoid promoting that kind of xenophobia and Islamophobia.
If we continue to stigmatize those of the Islamic faith, several things will happen. First, Muslims in the United States and abroad will begin to feel ostracized, as if their own neighbors are now enemies. They will fear for their safety, and begin to look for some kind of solace. Extremist groups like ISIS will eagerly provide that solace, and twist fear into hatred. When Muslims everywhere are shown that America does not like Islam, the Jihad will become far more sensible. Where before only extremists found America to be dangerous to Islam, more might feel that way if Islamophobia continues to grow. Thus, it is essential that we end the fear mongering and cheap political jargon being used by politicians like Trump. We must teach the people of America that all people, regardless of their appearance, race, or religion, have equal capacity for good and evil. Then and only then will we defeat ISIS.