Analysis: Could the Trump effect end up being good for US Muslims?

Participants pray in an interfaith Friday prayer service and protest calling for the investigation of the NYPD killing of Mohamed Bah on February 24, 2017 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 25 February 2017

Analysis: Could the Trump effect end up being good for US Muslims?

WASHINGTON: Despite an uptick in hate crimes against US Muslims in the months since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, a wave of public solidarity and improved views of both Muslims and Islam signal some good news for the community in the medium- and long-term.
Data and public opinion polls conducted by Shibley Telhami — a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings and the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland — show significant improvement in how US Muslims and their religion are viewed in the Trump era.
The change and improved attitudes constitute a backlash to the increasing Islamophobia that has accompanied Trump’s ascendancy to the White House. Telhami described to Arab News what is happening as a “parallel trend” to the shootings, vandalism and other kinds of hate crimes that have targeted the community.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented more than 1,000 hate crimes in the US since Trump won the election on Nov. 9. Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating a shooting in Kansas on Wednesday that killed one Indian engineer and injured another in a suspected hate crime that mistook the two men for being Middle Eastern.
“The sharp rise in hate crimes is definitely a big concern and a symptom of the deep polarization in the US,” said Telhami, adding: “Trump has successfully empowered a fringe segment of the US population that is detrimental to American values.” White nationalist groups and anti-Semitic voices have become more vocal since Trump won the presidency.
According to Bloomberg, “the New York Police Department (NYPD) received 143 hate-crime complaints between Nov. 8 and Feb. 19,” a 42 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. The Jewish community was the primary target of these attacks (72 percent), according to the NYPD.
Jewish community centers also received bomb threats in at least 10 locations across the US, reported Bloomberg. The vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Missouri shocked the US public last week, prompting condemnation from Trump and a visit by Vice President Mike Pence.
However, this spike in criminal acts against minorities could tip the balance, and is driving a “heartening parallel trend,” said Telhami. “Trump has also empowered a majority of Americans on the other side of the equation to show solidarity with the Muslim community.” Almost 1,000 participants rallied in New York in solidarity with Muslims last weekend.
After a mosque in Texas was destroyed in a fire last month, Jews handed Muslims the key to their synagogue. This week, after the vandalism of Jewish headstones at the cemetery, an online fundraiser encouraging Muslims to donate raised over $100,000 in 24 hours to repair the damage.
Telhami referenced “four polls over the past year” that his center has conducted, which show that “Americans’ views on Islam and Muslims have become more favorable incrementally. Every single poll showed a positive change of around 12 percentage points. We are almost now at pre-9/11 numbers.”
The polls show that attitudes toward Muslims jumped from 53 percent favorable in November 2015 to 70 percent in October 2016. Attitudes toward Islam also “saw improvement from 37 percent in November 2015 to 49 percent in October 2016, reaching the highest favorable level since 9/11.”
Telhami said: “This is a revolution (in the perception of Muslims) taking place in America,” one where “Islam and Muslims are being integrated into the American identity as part of who they are.” The rise in Islamophobia has also prompted more active engagement from the community in US politics, whether it is running for public office or taking part in political and media discourse.
While Telhami stressed that it will “be hard to know which one of the two trends (Islamophobia or revolution) will win out because it is a function of politics,” he saw the trajectory of US values as one that would ultimately favor the embrace of Muslims.
As the Trump administration works on a second version of the travel ban, and authorities continue to investigate several hate crimes, the public backlash in solidarity with Muslims gives Telhami hope that the “good more than the bad will prevail as an effect of Trump.”


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.