Last Wednesday, an event entitled “United We Stand #NoHate” held on campus invited students to gather at the Y intersection to stand in solidarity with Muslim people. The event was held in light of the current climate of violent Islamophobia and the recent executive order signed by Trump. At the time of writing, the order banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries (Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Yemen), including refugees, from entering the United States. Initially, organizers banned anti-Trump signs from the event, characterizing such sentiments as hateful, and potentially alienating of Trump supporters. They eventually retracted this statement in response to an outpouring of criticism on the Facebook event; however, the ‘apolitical’ nature of their original stance must still be rebutted. We cannot protest Trump’s racist and exclusionary policies without protesting Trump himself. Unity and compromise are necessary for the resolution of many political disputes, but racism is inherently divisive; we cannot unite with racists.
The key argument for Wednesday’s event was that in this polarized political climate, we should unite rather than reaffirm our divisions. However, in the context of Trump’s executive order, and the very real dangers Muslim people and other vulnerable groups are facing at this time, this response was deeply misguided. By insisting on #NoHate, the organizers of this protest are promoting the idea that an oppressed group is responsible for creating division in society if they dare to denounce their oppressors. By this logic, Muslim people are practicing hatred by demanding accountability from those who enact Islamophobia. Clearly, the opposite is true – it is racists who are responsible for this hatred, and Trump, his government, and supporters, who have legitimized it. We cannot be lenient in the face of Islamophobia, and the first step to combatting this injustice and oppression is to be incisive and uncompromising in identifying it.
Furthermore, in the aftermath of the Quebec City mosque attack, which was perpetrated by a right wing, white nationalist Trump supporter, it seems especially unjust to insist on respecting the feelings of Trump supporters. Muslim people in Quebec and elsewhere are facing serious dangers in the face of a wave of violent Islamophobia. There is no comparison between the alienation of Trump supporters at a politically moderate university and the difficulties Muslim people are facing right now, and it is unconscionable to suggest that both these groups are equally in need of safety and acceptance.
The events of the past few weeks should make it clear to us that the growth of Islamophobia and racism in the public sphere has put Muslim peoples’ lives at risk. Under these circumstances, neutrality is simply not an option, and reaching a conciliatory hand across the aisle to Trump supporters should be our last priority. Instead, we must do all we can to support and protect communities who are at risk, and to actively resist oppression not only abroad, but right here at home.