It is becoming almost impossible to read the news without seeing comments about the upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections. Specifically the Republican candidates have made potentially problematic generalizations about Muslim communities in the United States. As of 2014, Muslims made up roughly 1% of the U.S. population, making them very much so a minority community and arguably the minority facing the most extreme discrimination in the country.

As someone born and raised in the United States, I have seen this discrimination happen. As a student of conflict and international relations, I have studied and researched such topics enough to realize that this discrimination is problematic.

Potential Republican nominee Donald Trump has been quite vocal about his ideas to shut down mosques where ‘some bad things are happening’, and to reduce or eliminate Muslim immigration and refugee intake in the United States. [1]

Florida Senator, and also potential nominee, Marco Rubio issued similar claims that he would shut down mosques where radicalization takes place.[2] The first flaw in his logic is assuming that radicalization occurs in mosques, and that religious centers promote extremism.

This raises several concerns. First and foremost, this is further marginalizing the Muslim community by assuming they are associated with radicalization and terrorism. According to FBI data, only 6 % of terrorist attacks in the United States from 1980-2005 were carried out by Islamic extremists. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, 33 Americans have died as a result of terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims. Compared to the 180,000 Americans killed by mass shootings or reasons other than terrorism, Islamic extremists do not seem to pose nearly the same threat to the United States as do other individuals or groups.[3] In more recent years, Muslims were responsible for 0.3 percent of terrorism in Europe. They are clearly no greater a threat than any other religion or group.[4]

Another concern is how these candidates plan to identify Muslim refugees or immigrants. The Middle East and North Africa is home to only 20% of the world’s Muslims, and denying those from the region asylum or residence is not only discriminatory but discriminatory against many unintentional groups.[5] The color of someone’s skin, their birth country, nor their religion make them any more likely to be a member of an extremist group or a greater security risk.

Discriminating against and isolating Muslim communities in the United States is clearly wrong, both ethically and statistically. Including, rather than excluding, Muslim communities in the discourse on national security would benefit all involved. Closing mosques would not stop Muslims from practicing their religion, nor would it solve issues relating to radicalization and terrorism. Marginalizing an already largely discriminated against community is unfounded, especially within a country founded by immigrants seeking freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination.

By Melanie Gilbert