Home National Veteran Takes On Hate Speech Against Muslims: ‘It’s Unacceptable, It’s Un-American’

Veteran Takes On Hate Speech Against Muslims: ‘It’s Unacceptable, It’s Un-American’

“...Since a large number of Muslims in the U.S. are of African heritage. So, there’s a clear overlap of Islamophobia and other forms of racism…” Michael McPherson.

Jim Driscoll is the quintessential all-American. He has a PhD from Cornell, was a star football player at Harvard, was awarded a Bronze Star for fighting in Vietnam, and was on staff as a teacher at MIT before quitting in 1982 to devote his time to working for social justice. Now, at 70 years old, Driscoll is working with Veterans for Peace, an organization of military veterans and allies who are working to help veterans, dismantle the war economy and eventually end all wars, fight the United States’ rising Islamophobia — something he says “violates every value of the United States Constitution.”

Speaking with ThinkProgress an online news source, Driscoll was asked how he decided to take up fighting Islamophobia as an issue. His reply was: “Last year, in December, Michael McPherson, the Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, spoke about what everybody was talking about in the United States at that time, which was the incredible outbreak of hate speech that was all over the TV every time you turned it on. [It was] about Muslims and how Muslims needed to be allowed in the country or a census taken of where they are. Even the possibility of internment camps was hinted at, so he talked about that and how as an African heritage U.S. citizen, it affected him directly, since a large number of Muslims in the U.S. are of African heritage. So, there’s a clear overlap of Islamophobia and other forms of racism, and I heard that and was impressed and moved and so we launched this campaign.”

Driscoll continues,“The campaign is broader than Veterans for Peace. Veterans for Peace has very rational positions on foreign policy issues, [though] not all are politically expedient. But our intent is to make the fight against Islamophobia involve veterans. Most veterans joined the military for complicated reasons, not because we hated Muslims by and large. The values of this country are equality, freedom, tolerance, respect, etc., and veterans have a particular credibility in our society. Many of us went to war or risked our lives and fought for the country. I felt, Michael felt, and we all feel now, there’s a need for a veteran’s voice in the fight against Islamophobia. It matters when vets speak up and say, ‘no, this is not what I fought for and these are not the values of the U.S. Stop it.’ So, that’s what we’ve begun to do, and it’s just getting started.”

Driscoll went on to say “they have encouraged veterans to go into the rallies of political figures around country and hold up banners [that say] ‘No, stop hate speech against Muslims’ at candidates from both Republican and Democratic parties. [These actions have been] covered well in the media. We’ve got mentions in the New York Times and the Washington Post and a lot of local TV in a number of cities across the country. And so [we are] making a visible statement and also the bulk of the [coming] work is going to be at [the] local level — supporting and building a coalition against Islamophobia with other Muslim Americans.”

As a veteran, Driscoll said “Islamophobia violates every value [in] the United States Constitution [and that] we learned about in military training and it is stupid [from] a military perspective. The enemy that most of us are concerned about this day is ISIL [also known as ISIS] in Syria and Iraq. Their main pitch is to say that the U.S. and the West hate all Muslims and are trying to destroy Muslims and therefore you should join ISIL, so what are we doing? Islamophobic speech plays right into that narrative. So people who are Islamophobic are visibly recruiting for ISIL, so it’s stupid.”

Driscoll says “it’s a call to public figures to stop hate speech against Muslims. We as veterans are saying don’t do that, it’s unacceptable, it’s un-American, dangerous, and the cheapest form of political expediency.”

“What we are trying to do is be very narrow born and say something is going on in society, and it’s not okay and vets can stand up against it.”