“They brought it on themselves, didn’t they?” people say, in sorrowful response – these are good, honest folks in America, Britain and elsewhere – to news that US president Donald Trump had banned all refugees’ entry and that of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
I heard people I know well say this. Then I heard it on TV, in a news report from Pennsylvania. Then I read it in the paper and everywhere I looked. Then I heard Conservative US radio host Hugh Hewitt describe what he found on a book tour through America. The ban sounds like commonsense to most Americans, said Mr Hewitt, they thought it was there already.
Is it sufficiently clear by now that Mr Trump has managed to hook into the basic fear that currently governs citizens of much of the western world, India and Israel?
The fear is that Muslims somehow bring with them the threat of terrorism wherever they go, just by being who they are. “Look at the attacks in Europe,” some say sadly. “Why shouldn’t Trump secure America’s borders?”
(Pointless , of course, at this juncture to mention the facts, namely that citizens of the banned countries have not perpetrated fatal assaults on US soil for at least 40 years. Pointless to say that most of the European attacks were caused by homegrown people and that those in the US were similarly indigenous. Pointless to say that whether or not those European and American domestic terrorists were of the Muslim faith, it is hardly right to demonise a whole community. Pointless to hark back to a dark period in human history still within living memory.)
And so, I think we are on course to where our grandfathers once were. We are facing something we have read in the history books. The Holocaust Encyclopaedia puts it as follows:
“During the first six years of Hitler’s dictatorship, from 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of their public and private lives.”
We are sneaking up to the point, ladies and gentlemen, when as Robert Gellately’s landmark 2001 book ‘Backing Hitler’ noted, the Nazi state was able to pursue its broadening mission of portraying Jews as “typical subhumans” with the knowledge and silent compliance of the German people.
Except that this time, we are all complicit. This is not about only the American people. In 2017, it is about all of us – the world, all of us who can see and hear, understand – and ignore – that to which we silently or sorrowfully give consent. The demonisation of a whole community.
Call it what it is.