It began with post-World War I Germany; a period marked by out-of-control inflation, few jobs, and a bruised ego. Those who could see no end to the disaster needed a scapegoat and that was the German Jewish population. The NSDAP Party, known as the Nazi Party, won a sizable portion of the vote in 1932 and from there, the rest is a confusing but extremely xenophobic path to 1945.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s recent ability to attract new, elusive or Democratic voters with blatantly racist policies, particularly concerning Muslims, cannot be compared analogously to the Nazi’s rise to power. However, it can explain why his Islamophobic comments are so attractive to the working class in particular and why they cannot be ignored.
The Financial Crisis from 2008-2009 and the 9/11 Attacks define the American public’s view of the world. People now read labels that say, ‘Made in China’ and see America’s lack of self-sufficiency. They behold a world no longer strong like it was in World War II and the 20th century; one reliant upon a country perceived as backwards, poverty-struck and full of women with bound feet. When someone struggles to pay their bills working two part-time jobs with no health coverage and they wonder if that one, full-time position they need was given to someone abroad.
But from 9/11, or San Bernardino, or the Boston Bombing, their anger shifts from Southeastern Asia to the Middle East. The anger America has as its scapegoat: Muslims. “Muslim immigrants took our jobs,” people whisper in grocery stores, “and secretly, they are only here to kill our children and us.” They cannot even be Americans because they are Muslims, a chain email recently sent to my mother preached.
American Islamophobia is rooted in something deeper than Trump’s blatantly rude and xenophobic remarks. The working class is going nowhere; kept down by recessions and politicians in Washington, they feel as if they have no voice. They have barely benefited from the economic globalization of the 21st century and many have little education. For them, Muslims, characterized in the West as only extremists who hate America, are just the scapegoat they need.