In the summer of 2014, some conservative media outlets and Republican officials were trying to stoke fears of central American children, and they came across "evidence" they hoped would change public perceptions: prayer rugs were found on the American side of the southern border.
From there the right started connecting the dots in predictable ways. If there were prayer rugs, they must've been dropped by Muslims. If there were Muslims, they must've been terrorists. If they were terrorists, it's proof of the need to do ... something.
The whole story more or less evaporated soon after -- one of the rugs turned out to be a soccer jersey -- and the political world moved on. That is, until the Washington Examiner, a conservative outlet, published this item on Wednesday.
Ranchers and farmers near the U.S.-Mexico border have been finding prayer rugs on their properties in recent months, according to one rancher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by cartels who move the individuals.The mats are pieces of carpet that those of the Muslim faith kneel on as they worship."There's a lot of people coming in not just from Mexico," the rancher said. "People, the general public, just don't get the terrorist threats of that. That's what's really scary. You don't know what's coming across. We've found prayer rugs out here. It's unreal. It's not just Mexican nationals that are coming across."
Donald Trump, who has an unfortunate habit of valuing conservative media reports over the findings of actual U.S. intelligence agencies, eagerly promoted the report this morning.
And that's a shame, because this brazen fear-mongering is difficult to take seriously.
Let's take stock of what we've learned from the report the president is so fond of. An unidentified rancher claims to have found prayer rugs. We don't know who made the claim or where the fabric was found, and as best as I can tell, she offered no evidence (such as a picture or two, which might have been helpful).
The rugs are nevertheless supposed to be proof that dangerous non-Mexicans -- presumably people from the Middle East -- are entering the United States through our southern border.
So, we're supposed to believe some dangerous Muslims crossed the Atlantic, arrived in Mexico, carried their prayer rugs during their difficult journey across the border, and then left them in the American dirt.
Well, I'm convinced. How about you?
All joking aside, there's nothing wrong with prayer rugs. Or people who own them. Or people who pray. Or Muslims.
There is, however, something wrong with an American president, desperate to build a medieval vanity project, trying to scare the public for no reason -- again.