As an American Muslim, I’ve always wanted to stand out from the mainstream crowd, to be highlighted for my exotic religious identity, ethnic “brownness” and multi-syllable name that will never appear on a Disneyland key-chain.
That’s why I applaud Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that Muslims be given a special form of identification and his openness to the possibility of tracking American Muslims in a database.
“Some people are going to be upset,” says the GOP front-runner, showing a sensitive spirit and exquisite social media trolling skills.
Not I, Señor Trump, not I!
Listen, I know you’re swamped right now figuring out how to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s time-consuming to find a way to deport nearly 11 million undocumented individuals, all the while scouring the Earth for the Excalibur hair gel that can finally slay that wild, golden mane on your glorious head.
You’re busy, I get it.
But like the annoying, nerdy high school student who volunteers for AP classes and is the first to raise his hand in class, I want to offer some proactive recommendations and questions — with your permission of course — for your special Muslim ID cards.
Do selfies count as official photos for the cards? Can we make duck faces? Use Instagram filters?
These are important questions that need to be answered, Mr. Trump.
Your project needs to speak the language of the new generation. You need to appeal to both our civic duty and our narcissism. If this ID can’t be Snapchatted it might as well be a Polaroid — an archaic relic that will receive no traction with the millennials, like the presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee.
We should be able to customize our own IDs so we can be the protagonists of our surveillance state narrative. Therefore, I recommend Muslim emoji. You should consider hiring Apple. They just dropped a Mecca emoji in their latest iOS update. These emoji should reflect a colorful, digital palette, appropriate for the most diverse religious group in America. I recommend colors ranging from White to Caramel Latte to Mocha Brown to Beyond Mocha.
Also, please consider adding a “facial hair” option for the emoji. For my Muslim ID, I’d prefer a brown, smiling emoji with a hipster beard. Ideally, I’d like to add a forehead scar, eye-patch and tear drop tattoo as well. I have to appear “hard” in case we ever get interned. Just thinking two steps ahead and being extra prepared is all.
Each Muslim ID can list our respective superpowers and weaknesses. Example: Wajahat Ali. Superpower: Eating large quantities of biryani. Weakness: Removing tumeric stains from shirt collars.
If you adopt the superpower/weaknesses model, you can even do a cross-country promotional stump tour with the multiple superhero movies out this year. Why not sell your proposal along with dolls of Muslim Superman, Batman or Captain America?
You could also create a higher tier of Muslim ID cards — rare, shiny, “platinum” ones to reward good behavior. These cards will be given to very few Muslims, such as myself, who are declared “Moderate.” That would allow us to gamify this whole process, including by creating a checklist of all the appropriate trials Muslims will have to successfully complete to “earn” their rare, premium “Moderate” status. Each action gets you points.
Here are some suggested ways to earn (or lose) points:
- Publicly and repeatedly condemn violent acts done by violent extremists Muslims we’re never met in countries we’ve never visited. (100 points for each condemnation)
- Convince President Obama to finally out himself as a closet Muslim. Thirty percent of Americans are already onto him. (250 points)
- Attempt to physically fight ISIS and al-Qaeda, even if we have zero military training, combat experience or any specialized knowledge about law enforcement. (500 points). However, going to shooting ranges to hone our skills will automatically cause us to lose 1,000 points. Supporting gun rights and being critical of gun control will result in 250 bonus points
- Use the Bobby Jindal “Fair and Lovely” Instagram filter on all of our profile pics. (750 points)
- Reject Syrian and Iraqi refugees because #AllLivesMatter. (850 points)
- Never exercise our First Amendment rights to voice outrage, anger and disappointment at racism and double standards, because that of course would show Muslim rage. (12,500 points)
- Support unnecessary anti-Sharia legislation across the country. (2,500 points)
- Memorize every single lyric to every single Taylor Swift song ever. (Automatic 10,000 points)
We could “Hunger Games” this situation and host a “Last Moderate Muslim Standing” — an annual competition where 50 moderate Muslims are chosen, one from each state, to fight to the death until only one remains.
This proposal will most likely be endorsed by at least 31 governors who have promised to reject Syrian refugees. While it’s true none of the dozen or so refugees (out of about 785,000 who have come since Sept. 11, 2001) arrested or removed from the United States due to terrorism concerns were Syrian, you can never be too safe, we understand.
That’s why it’s helpful that some of your fellow GOP presidential candidates have given these refugees colorful animal avatars, such as “rabid dogs” and “rattlesnakes.”
I wonder what’s the spirit animal of the Moderate Muslim? A Camel is too subtle.
Mr. Trump, although I agree with most of your very calm, rational, enlightened talking points and proposals, one recent statement needs a tweak. You said, “We’re going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
That’s not entirely accurate. Although your strategy is bold, creative, and what entrepreneurs applaud as “lateral thinking,” it’s a remake once starring my circumcised monotheistic cousins from another mother, the Jews. Indeed, during World War II, Nazi Germany ordered Jews to wear a special Yellow Badge, sewn on their outer garments, so the public would be able identify, shame and marginalize them. Yours is a great idea, though not entirely brand new.
Across the Atlantic, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 interning thousands of innocent Japanese, most of them U.S. citizens, who were seen as a “Yellow Peril” and a “fifth column.” Americans felt safe even though no actionable intelligence resulted the measure and the experience traumatized generations of Japanese Americans like actor George Takei. Still, you want people to feel safe, right? I see the mayor of Roanoke, Va., invoked the internment to justify his stance on refugees. Perhaps he could be your National Security adviser. Although the mayor has since retracted his statement and apologized, so maybe not.
It seems there are still a few things to hammer out about this special Muslim ID? Maybe we need to be in touch. How about I just give you my existing ID: #25538. Attorney, State Bar of California. Give me a call sometime. We can discuss the U.S. Constitution, civil liberties, freedom and hair products.
This time you can help me, help you.
Wajahat Ali is a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, an award-winning playwright, an attorney and a former consultant for the State Department.