to ban all Muslims from traveling to the U.S. has dominated several hours’ worth of TV news coverage this week, with the presidential candidate loudly defending his proposal against challenges from everyone from Donald Trump’s callChris Cuomo and Joe Scarborough to Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan. Even Barbara Walters came out of retirement to try to reason with the obstinate billionaire.
But amid the cacophony of commentators and fellow candidates clamoring to denounce Trump’s vitriol, one of the most powerful responses to all the anti-Muslim sentiments that have cropped up throughout the West following the deadly terror attacks in Paris last month comes from a fed-up British soldier.
Chris Herbert was serving in Iraq in 2007 when he lost his leg to a bomb that killed one of his fellow soldiers and injured two others. Recently, Herbert has found plenty of unwelcome comments on his Facebook page from people who assume that, because of his life-changing experience in Iraq, he must harbor feelings of hatred or resentment toward all Muslims.
Those people are wrong. And in a very thoughtful Facebook post that has been shared more than 130,000 times since Tuesday, Herbert explained why.
While “Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg,” Herbert wrote that he has had just as many positive experiences with other Muslim people as he’s had negative encounters with white Brits since then.
“Blaming all Muslims for the actions of groups like Daeshe and the Taliban, is like blaming all Christians for the actions of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church,” he concluded, telling those who have tried to engage him in racist conversations to “get a grip of your lives, hug your family and get back to work.”
Trump’s call for a Muslim travel ban may have elicited outrage and accusations of racism from politicians, international officials and the mainstream media. But there are also plenty of people who agree, as illustrated by the enthusiastic cheers Trump received from supporters when he doubled down on the idea at a rally in South Carolina on Monday.
“I think that we should definitely disallow any Muslims from coming in. Any of them,” 75-year-old South Carolinian Charlie Marzka told CNN at the rally. “The reason is simple: We can’t identify what their attitude is.”
In Iowa, the Los Angeles Times spent time with a tow-truck driver named Bruce Goacher, who said, “I agree 100 percent” with Trump’s proposal.
“Poll after poll has found that white men with no college degree are among the New York tycoon’s most avid supporters,” wrote Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Finnegan. “As Goacher can attest, recent events — terrorist massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, Syrian refugees pouring into Europe, political clashes in the U.S. over guns and immigration — have only strengthened Trump’s bonds with these voters.”
In his Facebook post, Herbert used his own personal experiences with Muslim individuals to challenge the kinds of fear-based generalizations promulgated by Trump and his supporters. On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg echoed the British soldier’s sentiments in a post of his own, clarifying where the social network stands on the issue.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote.
“If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.”
The post received over a million likes and 55,000 comments within 21 hours of posting. The most popular response so far comes from Nour Machlah, who, according to his Facebook profile, is originally from Aleppo, Syria, and is currently studying architecture in Portugal.
“Thank you Mark, Islam doesn’t need support, we just need people to understand that there is Islam, and there are Muslims, and not every Muslim is representing Islam,” Machlah wrote. “Some Muslims do wrong or bad things, does that means Islam is asking them to do that?”
The problem, Machlah argued, is not with religion but with people.
“If you are Good human you can be good Muslim, Good Christian, etc.,” he wrote. “And if you are bad human, you could be bad Muslim, or bad Christian.”