It has been widely accepted that the “Third Rail” of politics is tampering with Social Security benefits. Similarly, the third rail of conversation is religion. Buried beneath the press but giving oxygen to the likes of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY.) and White House adviser Stephen Miller on Sunday talk shows attempting to defend racism, a glaring example of gross ignorance was on full display by President Trump. This past Wednesday, the President met, among others, Nobel Prize Winner Nadia Murad in the Oval Office. The twenty-something Ms. Murad is a member of the Yazidis, who are trapped in a conflict between the Kurds and the Iraqis. As a result of the war with ISIS, Ms. Murad was tortured, forced into sex slavery and suffered the loss of her murdered mother and six brothers.
Nadia Murad came to the White House with 26 other sufferers of religious persecution. The President was visibly disaffected, uncomfortable and distracted, surrounded by people of different color hues, and speaking languages that were foreign to him, including English. At one point, Ms. Murad spoke as she had before to other world leaders while holding back tears and explaining her plight. “They killed my mom, my six brothers. They left behind them,” Murad said. To wit, Mr. Trump asked, “where are they now?”
Ms. Murad continued, holding the rest of the room in rapt attention, “They killed them,” replied Murad. “They are in the mass grave in Sinjar, and I'm still fighting just to live in safe. Please do something.” At this point, it was obvious Mr. Trump had no idea who Ms. Murad is or what she had endured. He receded into his often-used patronizing know-nothing answer of, “I'm going to look into it very strongly.” The President continued the insult of this world hero when he displayed his complete lack of preparedness and class by asking her to explain why she had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nadia Murad visibly shaken and confused told Mr. Trump these words, spoken in broken English “For, after all this happened to me, I didn't give up,” she responded. “I made it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women. This was the first time a woman from Iraq she get out, and she spoke about what happened.” Trump’s response, “Oh really, is that right?” he said. “So, you escaped?”
The Yazidis practice a form of religious solitude that is complicated and filled with traditions, myths, and fantasy, like most of the world’s great religious practices. The conservative movement glommed onto the cause because of a peripheral tie to Christianity. I started this piece talking about the third rail of conversation. A great deal of the reactionary shock, when the word religion is interjected into a conversation, comes about because truly most of us have little real knowledge about other religions let alone our own faiths. Muslim, Ilhan Omar, has been condemned by some not because she has an opinion but because her opinion is not the plurality. It is much easier to grab phrases from adversaries and create a narrative, but maybe we should be smarter than Mr. Trump and read the opinions of others without prejudice.
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