RELIGION IS AN EASY language for people to use to define conflict. The people most willing to speak about what religion demands are the ones least likely to be invested in the sacrifices religion requires. They want the power that they believe they can claim through religion.
Those same voices who engage in this idle worship now hold the reins of power in the U.S. government. And they seek to exterminate Muslims. There are concerns of a Muslim registry and internment camps. More extreme fears consider other types of camps, imagining a return of the Holocaust. These fears are not unfounded, nor are they out of character with what President Trump’s advisers and appointees have said.
Yet these parallels are so powerful that I think it may be difficult for them to be realized. What I think is more likely in the near term is a different historical parallel. At the waning of another empire, the Colosseum became a space where individuals were martyred for what they believed, for entertainment.
An individual loss may be horrible, but the individual’s community may still believe it is safe. But death can come by a thousand cuts. The lion that chooses one life at a time remains a ravenous beast—the whole community will be vilified and will eventually die, just not quickly. And that beast will need a new food source.
The mayor of New York announced a 35-percent increase in hate crimes in the city in the month following the election. During that time there were 43 hate crimes documented. In December, a Muslim Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker wearing her uniform and a hijab was pushed down a flight of stairs at Grand Central station, and a Muslim police officer was threatened, in front of her teenage son, with having her throat slit. In August, two Muslim leaders were shot to death after leaving prayers at their mosque. For years, the New York police department has spied on Muslims where we pray.