President Trump’s Videos: Maligning Muslims

When the president of the United States communicates publicly on any forum, even if he is just sharing videos on Twitter, he does not speak as a private individual. He represents the nation. Americans who understand his statements to be untruthful and harmful have a right and duty to say so, especially on matters that most concern them.

As a member of Marietta’s Interfaith Dialog Planning Group, and as a professor of religion at Marietta College, I am dismayed by the president’s recent retweeting of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos.

The dishonesty of the videos, which were originally tweeted out by a British ultranationalist group and then retweeted by the president, have at this point been documented by many sources, including the New York Times article by Megan Specia, “The Stories Behind Three Anti-Muslim Videos Shared by Trump” (Nov. 29, 2017). Purporting to show violence carried out by Muslims, they show events that occurred in three countries at different times, without explanation, and with provocative titles that are vague, misleading, or simply false, with the intent to malign Muslims as a whole.

Indeed, while I cannot know the president’s intentions, the only purpose the videos can possibly serve is to malign the Muslim religion. They do not teach anything of value about Islam, or about some “threat” that is “real,” or about the need for “strong border security and strong national security” (as Whitehouse Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggests). They do not teach anything of value about any subject whatsoever, because their intent is not to teach but to confuse, agitate, and divide people.

Members of the Marietta community who wish to learn about Islam and other religions can find many opportunities to do so. Our Interfaith Dialog Planning Group organized several classes and presentations, including the visit of the Interfaith Amigos (a rabbi, a minister, and an imam) this fall, and we hope to organize more in the future.

Members of the community may also consider auditing my religion classes through the “Town and Gown” program at Marietta College. Or one can simply have a conversation with a neighbor who is Muslim or of some other religion. You may be surprised how much religious diversity exists in Marietta and throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley, and how willing your neighbors are to speak about religious differences.

There are many good reasons to engage in interreligious dialog. One need not believe that all religions are somehow the same, or that they are all equally true, in order to do so.

In fact, one of the best motivations is to learn what the real (as opposed to the false) differences and disagreements between religions are.

As one of my own students wrote this semester, “no good in the world can come of ignorance.” I would add that if the president wants to promote good in the world, he should use his public forum to spread truth, and not to circulate media that promotes ignorance.

David Torbett is a professor of religion at Marietta College and a member of Marietta’s Interfaith Dialog Planning Group.