Valdez: John Guandolo's anti-Muslim tweet targets hipster beards everywhere
Linda Valdez: Islamophobic zealot John Guandolo latest anti-Muslim target? A Southwest Airlines employee with a beard. Yes. It's gotten that bad.
Look out, hipster men. Your beards are in peril.
John Guandolo, who sells paranoia about Muslims, put you on the enemy list.
With nothing more to go on than skin color and an ample beard, Guandolo let loose the war hounds of twitter as he flew into Arizona Friday.
A beard? Must be a threat
His tweet (since deleted) lamented that “I wish it were shocking ... a sharia adherent muslim (aka jihadi) at my plane as I head to AZ to speak at the Western Conservative Conference.”
(The selective capitalization is his.)
This dire warning was accompanied by a picture of a dark-skinned working man dressed in a Southwest Airlines ground crew shirt, obligatory orange vest and gloves.
Oh, yes. And the beard.
What happened to personal choice?
If he’s Muslim that’s not just his business, it’s his right under the First Amendment.
On the other hand, if the young man is simply fond of facial hair, that’s between him and his significant other.
Increasing numbers of young men have long, trimmed beards these days. It’s a fashion statement.
It’s none of Guandolo’s business.
Except that he has made it his business to malign Muslims. Apparently that includes Muslim look-alikes, too.
John Guandolo sells paranoia
Guandolo created an organization that purports to reveal the truth about militant Muslims in the United States.
This, according to Muslim rights groups, includes making broad negative statements about Islam. Guandolo has been paid to do this by Arizonans who should know better.
This guy left the FBI in 2009 after his affair with a confidential source was exposed, according to reporting by The Republic.
In need of a new job, he turned to Muslim bashing and found a ready audience among law-enforcement types who apparently haven’t read the Constitution since high school.
His hate has an Arizona audience
I wish it were shocking.
Guandolo finds an audience for hate speech despite a reputation that should give any civil rights-loving American pause. His credentials are self-proclaimed. His mission, according to his website, is to educate America about the threats of the "global Islamic movement."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and local Muslim community leaders protested in 2014 when Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery hired him for a training session.
In 2017, the Arizona Police Association hired him – with a grant from Montgomery’s office – to offer an anti-Jihadi training.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations protested, saying Guandolo’s mischaracterizations of Muslims spread fear and put members of their community at risk.
Deedra Abboud, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, has received hundreds of hateful responses on Facebook aimed at her faith.
Assaults on Muslims is rising
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of assaults against Muslims in America rose significantly between 2015 and 2016. The level of assaults now surpasses the level following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In addition to 127 reported physical assaults in 2016, Muslims report increased intimidation, property damage and other hate crimes, according to Pew.
Irresponsible accusations, like Guandolo’s shrieking tweet, have consequences that touch people who are our neighbors, co-workers and friends.
Happily, the larger truth did not escape corporate America.
Southwest Airlines responded with its own tweets, denouncing Guandolo’s paranoid rant as “cruel and inappropriate” and vowing to stand by the employee.
If only some politicians had a clue.
The tendency to cast suspicion on all Muslims for the crimes of a radical few is encouraged from the White House – and trickles down through the Republican party.
We all lose in this kind of bigotry
Guandolo tagged @therealdonaldtrump and @ambjohnbolton in his reckless tweet.
Scapegoating and dehumanizing people are old strategies because making people afraid is a good way to make them embrace authoritarian leaders.
The pain of innocent people has long been the collateral damage in this quest for power and profit.
Who knew hipsters would get caught in this?
But it isn't just the hipsters who have joined Muslims as fellow victims of the far right's Islamophobic frenzy. All Americans suffer when bigotry rises.
Reach Linda Valdez at email@example.com.
READ MORE FROM VALDEZ: