Originally published under the title "America Leads Rest of the World in Tolerance of Muslims."
Donald Trump doesn't appear to think very highly of his supporters.
Hillary Clinton's claim during the most recent Democratic debate that ISIS is "showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists" is an unfounded assertion, but she's right that Trump's increasingly irresponsible public statements are damaging our national security.
Every time Trump opens his mouth about banning Muslims from entering the U.S., forcing those already here to register, and the need to "take out" the families of ISIS terrorists, he gives ammunition to those at home and abroad who vigorously lobby against the clear-headed counterterrorism policies our nation needs more than ever.
The naysayers are already on the offensive. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator during President Barack Obama's first term, and Steven Simon, formerly his top Mideast adviser, intone in Politico that the Trump craze has shown Americans to be lacking "the kind of societal resilience that is essential for our success in fighting terrorism." Put more indelicately, we're too anti-Muslim for our own good.
Trump has apparently convinced himself that the American public is bigoted.
What's particularly galling about Trump is that there's little evidence he personally views Muslims with such cartoonish suspicion. Indeed, his extensive investments in Dubai and Indonesia suggest otherwise. That would be to his credit but for the fact that, like Benjamin and Simon, he has apparently convinced himself that the American public, or at least the portion from which he is courting votes, is bigoted. And like any good reality TV producer, he is determined to give the people what he thinks they want.
In point of fact, Trump is wrong about the American public being prejudiced against Muslims. Muslim immigrants have assimilated into our society to a much greater degree than in Europe (one reason why far fewer have flocked to the jihad in Syria). Whereas French Muslims are concentrated in belts of poverty on the outskirts of major cities, unbridled opportunity has drawn Muslims to nearly every corner of America, where they enjoy higher-than-average incomes.
Trump is wrong about the American public being prejudiced against Muslims.
Notwithstanding all the recent media warnings of anti-Muslim backlash, it's worth bearing in mind that exactly two Americans have committed murder linked to anti-Muslim backlash since 9/11 (Frank Roque and Mark Stroman, both unstable dimwits who mistakenly killed non-Muslims). We're leading the world in tolerance of Muslims.
A sizable minority of the U.S. population may say they support Trump's ban on Muslims, but this doesn't mean we've abandoned our tolerant values.
It is not so-called "Islamophobia" that draws Americans to Trump. At a time when the Islamist threat is growing, the Obama's administration's unwillingness to acknowledge its religious dimension has alienated much of the public, and voters have doubts about whether Republican candidates will act on their promises in office, anti-Muslim slurs are seen by some as an assurance that Trump won't be another sell-out. The logic is faulty, but it's not necessarily evidence of bigotry or hatred.
Trump may not be boosting ISIS recruitment, but his theatrics make us look decidedly unreasonable in the eyes of billions who don't understand the American people and the nuances of our political culture. This serves only to further the agenda of Islamists and those who would concede our safety to them.
Far from being a political outsider willing to go the extra mile in protecting America, Trump is the candidate most willing to endanger it in pursuit of his political ambitions. You can't get more Washington than that.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum. Gary C. Gambill is a research fellow at the Middle East Forum