Michael Moore has a message for Donald Trump: We are all Muslim.
In a show of solidarity against Mr. Trump's recent calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, the documentary filmmaker and activist stood outside Trump Tower in Manhattan Wednesday holding a sign that read "We are all Muslim."
He posted a photo of the scene to Facebook, along with a letter to the frontrunner Republican presidential candidate.
"In desperation and insanity, you call for a ban on all Muslims entering this country. I was raised to believe that we are all each other's brother and sister, regardless of race, creed or color. That means if you want to ban Muslims, you are first going to have to ban me. And everyone else," Mr. Moore wrote.
Trump's recent proposal for a temporary ban following the attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., by a Muslim couple, have inspired an outpouring of support for, as well as denunciation of, Trump's rhetoric.
While Republican figures including House Speaker Paul Ryan, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and former Vice President Dick Cheney have publicly condemned Trump's calls, the outspoken billionaire remains the Republican frontrunner, with 38 percent support among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.
Trump's continued success may not be surprising. Republican voters say they are much more concerned about Islamic extremists than Democrats. According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, 82 percent of Republicans saying they were “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world, compared with 51 percent of Democrats.
But the rhetoric behind his rise is concerning to many in the Muslim American community who worry Trump's contentious remarks – including unsubstantiated claims that thousands of Muslim Americans in New Jersey celebrated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that Muslims in the US should be registered in a national database, and that mosques should be monitored – have inflamed a culture of fear that has contributed to an anti-Muslim backlash.
In addition to individual complaints of harassment, threats, and violence, the backlash includes vandalism of mosques: a severed pig's head was left outside a mosque in Philadelphia, an Islamic center in Florida was defaced, and a Texas mosque was vandalized with feces and torn pages of the Quran.
"I have never seen such fear and apprehension in the Muslim community, even after 9/11," Ibrahim Hooper, lead spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Associated Press.
Yet, while the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, as well as the political rhetoric it inspired, have given rise to fear and mistrust, it has also created opportunities for learning and understanding, as well as calls for compassion.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently reached out to Muslims with a message that they are welcome on Facebook.
"After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others," Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page. "As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn't against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone."
Before the San Bernardino attack, a number of anti-Muslim demonstrations set to be held nationwide this fall fizzled, and were replaced with interfaith rallies to support the mosques being protested, The Christian Science Monitor’s Harry Bruinius reported.
And Muslim Americans determined to show their denunciation of extremism and support for victims recently raised more than $215,000 for the victims of the San Bernardino shooting.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll that showed 51 percent of Americans consider Muslims living in the US the same way they consider other groups of people, and only 14.6 percent of those surveyed said they were generally fearful.
"I’d like to think since 9/11, there’s been more awareness and even tolerance – and even intolerance for intolerance – in the West in regards to Islamophobia," Randall Rogan, a professor of communication at Wake Forest University, told the Monitor in November. "For the most part, we as Western societies are pretty sensitive to that."
Moore certainly appears to be.
“Here we are in 2015, and, like many other angry white guys, you are frightened by a bogeyman who is out to get you,” he wrote in his letter to Trump. "That boogeyman, in your mind, are all Muslims. Not just the ones who have killed, but ALL Muslims."
He ended his letter to Trump with a call for readers to sign a "We Are All Muslim" letter, on his website, and then post a photo of themselves on social media sites with a sign and a similar hashtag declaration.
He promised to post all the photos from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on his own website and then send them to Trump.
"We are all Muslim. Just as we are all Mexican, we are all Catholic and Jewish and white and black and every shade in between. We are all children of God (or nature or whatever you believe in), part of the human family, and nothing you say or do can change that fact one iota."