Will Americans reject racism?

Values of tolerance and inclusion are being put to the test in the US after the Paris attacks

Values of tolerance and inclusion are being put to the test in the US after French attacks. Astrid Riecken / AP Photo
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After the terror attacks in Paris and Lebanon, countries around the world have taken aggressive steps to safeguard their borders. The reaction from civil society has been equally tense, especially in the United States. Two men were kept from boarding a commercial flight because they were speaking Arabic. Similar incidents have been reported across the country, revealing a worrying trend.

Taken by themselves, these airline incidents are the result of ignorant airline employees and jittery passengers. Placing these events into a larger landscape of increasingly anti-Islamic rhetoric in America, they point to a hostile national climate. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responded to the Paris attacks with outlandish calls to have Muslim Americans carry special identification cards. Mr Trump’s calls will not soon be realised for the very reason that they are in clear violation of the constitution, but the fact that his remarks are not dismissed outright is alarming.

Mr Trump’s comments came as the House of Representatives rejected president Barack Obama’s attempts to allow more Syrian refugees into the US. Additionally, a handful of states quickly passed legislation blocking Syrian refugees from settling there. The governor of Texas went as far as to block local non-profit organisations from helping Syrian refugees.

To say that America has had a complicated relationship with the Muslim world since the September 11, 2001 attacks would be an understatement. The country was deeply shaken, and while fear is an understandable reaction, racism is not. Politicians are attempting to take at advantage of this fear for their own short-term political gains. Based on the viral reaction the recent airline incidents, whereby many Americans mocked airlines for bowing to the demands of racist passengers, there is reason to believe that this spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric will soon die down. Ultimately, the values of inclusion and tolerance for which the United States has come to be known around the world are being put to the ultimate test. It is now up to the American people to reject racism in the face of terror.