Why the President should not ban Muslims from the United States

Whatever motivated Donald Trump as a candidate for the presidency to suggest a ban on Muslims entering the United States, he should consider some very salient reasons for dropping the idea. For a start, it makes little economic sense.

If pulling President Trump’s heart strings won’t work, then the business case might convince the POTUS. In 2011, the purchasing power of American Muslims was estimated to be between $107bn and $124bn. This spending goes across a whole range of sectors:

  • img_3750Housing – $33bn
  • Motor vehicle and services – $16bn
  • Insurance and pensions – $11bn
  • Healthcare – $6.5bn
  • Entertainment – $5bn

The Muslim population is younger than the US average with education and income levels at a par if not slightly above the average household. This presents a huge potential market for corporate America. The obvious areas include halal food products and Islamic finance though companies have plenty of other opportunities if they think creatively and start talking to American Muslims more creatively.

As a market, Muslims are set to grow in population and spending. By 2030, their numbers will have doubled to over 6m regardless of any bans on entry and their share of US GDP will also have doubled to around 1.7%. All those young Muslims are already coming to form a spending phenomenon known as Generation M.  They are hard working, ambitious and will give their political support to those who help them move upwards. Politicians who support Muslim aspiration can expect to be rewarded with votes.

Muslim Americans are also expanding into the political sphere. This may dismay nativists and the alt-right but the truth is that these representatives, far from seeking a sharia governed caliphate, just want the same improved community services as non-Muslims.

While President Trump celebrated victory in New York in November, 2016, a Somali-American woman Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American legislator in US history. Hillary Clinton may have failed to smash her glass ceiling that night but Ilhan Omar broke several.

She began life amidst the horror of civil war in Somalia followed by a Kenyan refugee camp but is now a hijabi wearing member of the Minnesota House. If ever there was a genuine log cabin story in American politics, then Ilhan Omar’s biography fits the bill. As one newspaper put it:

Omar’s story is just the latest in a long line of oppressed people coming to the United States, grabbing hold of the country’s democratic levers and demanding equality and opportunity — mirroring the journey of Irish, Jewish and other immigrant groups.

569858440_1280x720In Dearborn, WWE Smackdown champion Terrance “Rhyno” Guido Gerin was defeated at the polls by Abdullah Hammoud for Michigan’s 15th House District seat. The wrestler thought he’d take the Republicans to victory but Hammoud, a 26 year old healthcare advisor, beat him soundly. No amount of wrestling themed campaign ads from his opponent stopped the more convincing Hammoud.

Hammoud’s programme included more support for small business including start-up loans as well as greater incentives to keep jobs in Michigan. Like an increasing number of Muslim Americans, Hammoud is well educated with a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbour. He is the political and educational expression of Generation M.

With American-Muslims advancing politically and economically, the new Republican administration has to decide whether it stands for aspiration and advancement or if it prefers xenophobia and fear.

Advertisements

Why US presidents should visit mosques more often

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-12-52-04

It is extraordinary that it took until February, 2016 for President Obama to make his first official visit to an American mosque – right at the end of his second term in office. Islamist propaganda has always cast the War on Terror as a war by the West against the whole of Islam on a global scale. Arguably, by not visiting a mosque during most of his term, the President had unwittingly bolstered that narrative. After all, why not visit a mosque?

In the United States as of 2014, according to Pew, there were 2.75m Muslims. By 2050, they will surpass those who identify themselves as Jewish. They are mostly anti-extremist, even believing that their faith leaders have not done enough to speak out on this issue – again, according to Pew. On the other hand, there is a widespread view that post-9/11 anti-terror legislation has impacted disproportionately on Muslims.

Obama finally decided to cross the threshold of a mosque in response to comments made by Donald Trump while running as the Republican presidential candidate. He told the congregation:

If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States: You fit in here — right here. You’re right where you belong. You’re part of America, too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.

Muslims themselves have moved decisively towards a reconciled identity in the US adopting increasingly liberal attitudes on homosexuality and abortion. Politically, they trend towards the Democrats and in spite of high rates of business formation and suburban lifestyles nevertheless believe in bigger not small government.

But in spite of these encouraging signs of assimilation, Republicans are noticeably cool about their Muslim fellow citizens and even Democrats are not reportedly warm. Democrat attitudes to Muslims could best be described as neutral compared to outright suspicion among Republicans.

It is wrong and dangerous to conflate American Muslims with Islamist extremists. Successive surveys have revealed a community that is happy to adhere to American values and salute the flag. Yet Obama left it very late in his presidency to reach out to Muslims. Even George Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington after 9/11 to boldly state that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam”.

If we want to drive Muslims into the hands of Islamists, there are two proven ways to achieve this:

  1. Put the whole of Islam and Islamist extremism in the same bucket and depict both as some kind of civilizational threat
  2. Encourage a sense of victimhood among Muslims slowly convincing them that it is impossible to live as a Muslim in the United States (and only caliphate governed by sharia law will offer real protection)

The antidote to the above is to make a clear distinction between the majority of law abiding, patriotic Muslims as opposed to Islamist extremists – and deal with them very differently. Avoidance of victimhood narratives is also critical, instead disseminating stories of success and aspiration.

It would also help if presidents of the United States set foot more often in Muslim community venues to evidence that they are as much a part of the fabric of the US as Catholics, evangelicals and Jews.