Trump's 'Ideological Screenings' of Muslims Are Already Here

The “Muslims Have Rights” campaign is using media and satire to call attention to institutionalized Islamophobia.

Photo Credit: Muslims Have Rights / Screenshot

“Islamophobia is something that is institutionalized across the government,” Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror, told AlterNet. “It is in the FBI and foreign policy. It is why wars get legitimized the way they do by both Republicans and Democrats.”

“We wanted to say that this is not a matter of whether Muslims are ‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable,’” Kundnani continued. “What we’re doing is promoting the fact that Muslims have rights, and those rights have been violated as a result of Islamophobia and the policies and practices that it generates.”

Kundnani is the executive producer of a media campaign called “Muslims Have Rights,” developed in concert with a team of journalists and scholars, as well as civil rights organizations including the Muslim Justice League, Desis Rising Up and Moving and the American Civil Liberties Union. The initiative aims to intervene in an election cycle discourse plagued with subtle and overt anti-Muslim rhetoric. “We wanted to get away from the idea that Trump is the problem and Clinton is the solution and that's all that needs to be said,” said Kundnani.

To illustrate this point, the team made a video called “Ideological screening,” a reference to Trump’s declaration in August that, “In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today…I call it extreme, extreme vetting.” The video shows that screenings are already implemented under the Obama administration’s "anti-radicalization" programs, including via the federal program “Countering Violent Extremism.”

“The FBI’s analysis of radicalization has been widely discredited by academic research. It mistakes behaviors such as ‘increased isolation from former life,’ ‘wearing traditional Muslim attire,’ ‘growing facial hair,’ and ‘frequent attendance at a mosque or a prayer group’ for indicators of radicalization,” the campaign said in a statement released this week. “These ideas lead to Muslims being treated with suspicion for perfectly ordinary and legitimate behaviors.”

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Sarah Lazare was a former staff writer for AlterNet and Common Dreams. She coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.