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With Trump presidency looming, Muslim students feel unsafe, unwelcome

Fathma Rahman and Shane McKeon

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As the news set in that Donald Trump would win the presidential election, Muslim students said they feared the president-elect’s rhetoric will make living in the United States treacherous for people of their faith.

“I am so overwhelmed that, looking at the map, I feel unsafe seeing this many people support a man who attacks me and so many people I care about,” Weinberg sophomore Rafah Ali said. “I don’t necessarily stick out as a Muslim, but I have a lot of family and a lot of loved ones who do, and I’m very scared for them.”

Trump — who defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — has proposed policies that would affect Muslims in ways that are without precedent in modern American politics. After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Before that, Trump had advocated a mandatory registry or database for the country’s Muslims and had called for surveillance of certain mosques.

Trump also has repeatedly claimed he saw Americans in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11. Fact-checkers have discredited his claim. No news reports have been found to corroborate Trump’s comments, and the mayor of Jersey City — where Trump said the supposed celebrations took place — tweeted that Trump “willfully distorts the truth.”

Still, Weinberg senior Haaris Pervaiz said Trump’s rhetoric inflamed stereotypes about Muslims, something that will not go away soon.

“He is bringing out negative opinions that people already had, and he’s playing on people’s fears — their fears of outsiders, of minorities, of Muslims,” Pervaiz said. “(It’s) going to continue to have an effect in the upcoming months and years.”

Weinberg senior Zoya Khan said Trump’s foreign policy will make the United States “the laughing stock of the world” to Muslims abroad.

Khan also said she fears for Muslim Americans who wear the hijab or other visible representations of their faith, saying they might be targeted.

“It’s going to get a lot worse for colored bodies in general in America,” Khan said.

In his official platform, Trump proposes the United States “suspend, on a temporary basis, immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”

But Trump’s friction with Muslims has not only been about policy. Over the summer, Trump feuded with Khizr Khan and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq. Khizr Khan criticized Trump in a speech at the Democratic National Convention, during which he brandished a pocket constitution and asked Trump if he had read it. Trump responded that Khizr Khan delivered the entire speech because his wife, Ghazala, was not “allowed” to speak.

Trump also suggested in 2011 that President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

“He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim,” Trump told Fox News. “I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that.”

In September, Trump dropped his false “birther” claims and recognized that Obama was born in the U.S.

During Trump’s victory speech early Wednesday morning, he said his movement is one “comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs, who want and expect our government to serve the people.”

But Tahera Ahmad, NU’s associate chaplain and director of interfaith engagement, said Trump stoked Americans’ fears by linking the “failures of our country” to minority groups, such as Muslim Americans.

“The message that it sends to young Muslims who have worked really hard to get to where they are is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you want to engage with your civic society, no matter how much you continue to contribute to civic society, the hate has trumped all of that,” Ahmad said. “It’s been a long day.”

Email: fathma@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @fathmarahman

Email: shanem@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @shane_mckeon

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