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United States presidential elections: Is the land of the free at risk?

The United States presidential elections due in November next year are producing some of the toughest competition and controversies. While presidential hopefuls are coming up with new promises every day, some of their rhetoric can’t escape wide criticism by the public.

Donald Trump, one of the Republican candidates, is a controversial name, as well as one of the leading contenders. Since his first rally when he announced his election campaign, he has been widely criticized, and for the right reasons.

Trump’s harsh rhetoric towards the Latino community and immigrants in general were even considered as “hate speech”. He even went as far to say that should he become the president, he would repatriate 200,000 Syrians that sought refugee in the country and build walls along the borders to prevent immigration.

The Latino community in the country had made it clear that they would never accept the rhetoric of Trump, and US media outlet NBC declared that they were cutting all business ties with Donald Trump. Mexican businessman Carlos Slim and his chain store also parted ways with Trump due to his unacceptable anti-immigrant approach.

Another move by Trump that sparked outrage came when he said he could shut down some mosques in the US. Suggesting this as a good way to fight the Islamic State (IS) movement is surely an unacceptable policy.

If such an idea is put into practice, it will be a flagrant violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of faith.

Following that outrageous statement, The New York Daily News published a story that linked the Eyup Sultan Mosque in Brooklyn to IS. This ludicrous story, penned by Adam Edelman, is another example of efforts to bring Muslims under suspicion and fuel Islamophobia. If this attitude finds widespread acceptance and mosques are indeed closed, this will easily lead to American Muslims being seen as potential criminals.

In turn, the US will have to deal with a new image where freedoms are circumvented, injustice is on the rise, hate is spreading, all of which would lead to an exponential increase in tensions across the country.

American Muslims reacted swiftly to the hostile statements regarding the mosques and Islam in general. To counteract this effect, the Mayor of Brooklyn met with representatives of the Turkish and Muslim communities in New York and said that the “limitation of religious freedoms and fueling Islamophobia will only increase racist behavior and ramp up the hatred”.

It is crucial that Brooklyn Mayor Eric Adams said: “Religious freedoms are the building blocks of our faith as Americans.”

The US is known as the country that epitomizes freedoms and anything that could hurt that will be the end of the American dream.

“Freedom” has always been a vital part of the American history. “The Emancipation Proclamation” delivered by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 is but one example and serves to illustrate the guarantee of freedom of those that live in the US. The American Declaration of Independence, approved in 1776, also puts great emphasis on liberties.

The US Constitution of 1787 is full of references to freedoms. Dominated by the principle, “if something is not banned, it is legal”, is one of the main reasons why the US is considered the “country of freedom”. The Statue of Liberty in New York has come to be the primary symbol of the importance the US attaches to freedoms.

Defending freedoms is not only incumbent upon American judges and elected presidents; it is a duty of every American citizen, as much as every presidential candidate.

It is crucial that presidential candidates treat all faiths, religions and races equally. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, different Christian groups and atheists should be equally protected, embraced and respected. A believer, regardless of his faith, should be able to practice his religion peacefully and feel no discrimination.

It is obvious that American Muslims need to be shown more love and compassion. The American military campaigns against some radical groups in Muslim countries, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are still underway.

However, it must be remembered that these groups are heavily criticized and rejected by hundreds of millions of Muslims, who see the Quran as their sole guide and reject superstitious inventions presented as religion.

Yet, since the media doesn’t shed light on this fact, a majority of the world’s population are oblivious to this. As a result, some people with not-so-innocent intentions may go as far as blaming Muslims, framing or insulting them in their publications, in an attempt to exacerbate Islamophobia.

Policies based on opposition to Muslims will bring neither success nor prosperity to the US. Americans are religious and, as a general rule, quite friendly. They want justice and freedom and they respect believers. This attitude is the main reason behind the power of the US.

It is clear that if clashes of faiths, prohibitions, restrictions and unnecessary tensions start, the unity and solidarity of the US, which is home to so many different ethnicities and faiths, will be impaired.

The solution of ideologically-based problems is not “prohibitions and/or using violence”. False information can be neutralized only by presenting the correct information through intellectual methods. Blaming an entire group for the mistakes of a few and other similar policies are inherently unwise.

For this reason, it would be a grave mistake to shut down mosques and to consider peaceful and sincere Muslims as equal with some groups that deviated from Islam to follow an erroneous path.

This mistaken attitude will pit the US against Muslims and other faith groups. Instead, policies “based on love” must be brought to the fore.

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