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“Are You With Us or Against Us?”

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D.

The White House reported in a press conference yesterday that a five-year-old boy was detained for more than four hours, reportedly handcuffed at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., as a result of President Trump’s recent Executive Order. He was purportedly seen as posing a “security risk”. The boy is a U.S. citizen according to his mother, who claims she notified U.S. officials prior to his arrival from Iran.

In a press briefing, press spokesman, Sean Spicer, did not apologize or express any regret about the incident, instead justifying it by saying, “To assume that just because of someone’s age and gender that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.”

What is actually misguided and wrong is any security service getting close enough to a child seen as a potential risk to be able to put handcuffs on him! Clearly he was not packing explosives or the services would not have risked getting near him. Likewise he likely boarded a transfer plane where he went through additional security. There was no legitimate reason to handcuff this 5-year-old and to do so while keeping him separated from his mother is likely to cause serious trauma for both of them.

As a psychologist with a specialty in child development, I can tell you, children need help deciphering the world around them and they especially don’t understand when adults act strangely hateful and mean. When finally allowed to reunite with her son, this child’s mother sang Happy Birthday to him to help calm him, which makes me wonder if every birthday from here on in he will get flashbacks of being held back from his country, separated from his waiting mother, handcuffed, and surely imagining it will go on forever or if he will land in jail, never to be reunited with his loved ones again. I wonder who, if anyone, was allowed to comfort him during those five hours. Could they say anything reassuring in face of today’s security climate? Were they, too, handcuffed and unable to hug him?

As a counter-terrorism professional that has interviewed over 500 terrorists, extremists and in the case of dead suicide terrorists, their family members and close associates, I can tell you, what Americans need to realize is that the Trump Administration’s actions are not fighting terrorism and the world is watching.

Muslims all over the globe vacillate between various narratives about Americans. Most want to take part in the American dream of freedom and democracy. But there is another darker narrative about America being the unjust world’s policeman, an evil force that terrorizes Muslims around the world and must be fought by any means. This narrative states that the U.S. sends drones that kill innocent civilians; invades Muslim countries to pillage and take spoils. Trump’s recent claims that we should have taken Iraq’s oil, pushes more Muslims to believe the second narrative.

Intolerance begets intolerance. Hate begets hate. We’re seeing the fruits of Trump’s labors and now, handcuffing a child without remorse as one more picture of a dark and chilling America—for American’s themselves and for Muslims who are vulnerable to terrorist recruitment – both trying to decide, in the now infamous words of George Bush and sadly, often repeated by terrorist recruiters: Are you with us or against us?

Reference for this article: Speckhard, Anne (Feb 1, 2017) Are you with us or against us? onfaith

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