Countdown to Kristallnacht


Source: Huffington Post

By Akbar Ahmed

The Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and has just released the film “Journey into Europe” which accompanies the book of the same title (Brookings Institution Press, Forthcoming). He conducted a major film and book project on Islam in America, both called “Journey into America.”

It was a cold night in November 1938. Hard men with hatred in their hearts and bats in their hands set about smashing shops belonging to Jews. At the end of the night, some 267 synagogues were destroyed, the windows of 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were shattered and several Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. At least 91 Jews were killed in the mayhem. Up to 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Glass from smashed storefront windows lay strewn across the streets. That night of infamy is notorious in history as Kristallnacht — the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Kristallnacht was a turning point on the path to the concentration camps and the Holocaust, at the end of which 6 million Jews would be killed, creating what has been acknowledged as one of the most murderous episodes in history.

Today, we appear to be heading that way again — this time with Muslims instead of Jews.

Kristallnacht was justified by the Nazis as a response to the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Jewish man. Similarly, much of the current level of Islamophobia appears justified to many Americans because of the terrible and tragic killings by Muslims in San Bernardino and Paris. The San Bernardino killings were particularly horrific because they were likely committed by an American-born citizen and his wife. It was a double betrayal — of their own Islamic faith, a religion of peace, and of their host country, which had accepted them and given them the American dream.

Trump has taken the first tiny dangerous steps towards unleashing forces that could trigger large-scale violence against the Muslim community.

The classic pattern from the fascist playbook has been: first abuse and demonize the minority community, then isolate it, then suggest violence and finally encourage and indulge in violence. We may not have, thankfully, reached the last stage, but we certainly are into the second and perhaps moving to the third stage. Here’s why.

Donald Trump, the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party, has been focused on projecting Muslims in an extremely negative manner, with each of his statements more extreme than the last. When a man at one of Trump’s speeches said, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims … When can we get rid of them?” Trump merely replied, “We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.” Last month, Trump said he was open to keeping a database of American Muslims or making them carry special ID cards that listed their religion. He talked of shutting down American mosques because “bad things are happening.” He vowed, “We’re going to have to do things we never did before,” things “that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy.” A few days ago, he suddenly said that he would ban all Muslims from entering the United States — a statement that caused a furor both in the United States and abroad, with even the British prime minister, who would normally not comment on an American election, objecting to Trump.

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