It's been a great week for Islamophobia in America.
On Monday, Ahmed Mohamed—now the most famous 14-year-old science geek in the world—brought a clock he had made at home to his Texas high school. He later said he wanted to impress his teachers. Instead, the school decided that he might be building a bomb, called the police and had him arrested.
On Thursday, Donald Trump was doing a town hall in New Hampshire when a man got up and said, "We have a problem in this country, it's called Muslims. We know our current president is one, you know he's not even an American." Trump let the comment go right by.
Many have focused on the second part of the man's statement, the part about President Obama. Chris Christie, who has seemingly been the only Republican to address the incident, said on the "Today" show that he would have corrected the man. "I'd say that the president's a Christian and he was born in this country. Those two things are self-evident," he said.
But it's the first part of the statement that's the worst. "We have a problem in this country, it's called Muslims," the man said. (Unwittingly, he echoed the infamous Nazi discussion about how to solve the "Jewish question.") If he had said, "we have a problem in this country, it's called black people," would Christie hedge in the way that he did?
It's tempting to think that such comments have no place in our discourse, but the truth is that we allow Muslims to be maligned constantly, with virtually no consequences for the people making the attacks. Poll after poll has shown that Muslims are the most widely disliked religious group in the country. We live in a country where, to name just one example, Bill Maher's fervent anti-Muslim bigotry has only served to burnish his credentials as a provocateur.
This climate has infected our politics as well. The racism of the GOP is hardly even worth mentioning. But what about the fact that Barack Obama has never once set foot in an American mosque as president—has never once shown solidarity with Muslims by entering one of their houses of worship? What kind of signal does that send?
After his arrest, Ahmed Mohamed has been the beneficiary of a huge outpouring of goodwill. Every tech company in America seems to want to help him out. Lost in the conflagration, though, is this: Ahmed Mohamed has actually been dealing with racism for years.
"In middle school I was called a terrorist, called a bombmaker, just because of my race and my religion," he told MSNBC's Chris Hayes.
That's the real problem: all of the Muslim kids who have to choke down a regular dose of hatred when they go to school, or the ordinary people who worry that their headscarves will attract violence. If the children of the man in Trump's audience had been in Ahmed's class, who would be surprised if they were among the people hurling such abuse at him?
Ahmed's father told reporters that what happened to his son was an aberration. "That is not America," he said. Sadly for him, and for all of us, he's wrong.