After the bombs went off at the Marathon three years ago, Muslim Americans were violently accosted in the street. The imam of a Boston mosque named Ibrahim Rahim made an impassioned plea for peace while denouncing in the strongest possible terms the attacks of that day. His words were evocative. I reached out to him and what followed has become a most fulfilling correspondence.
On Monday, Donald Trump continued his diatribe against Muslims, calling for a Cold War-style “extreme vetting” of prospective immigrants, to identify “any hostile attitude towards our country or its principles.” I felt it time to consult the imam. I asked three questions, and received an ocean of wisdom.
William Rivers Pitt: On Monday, Donald Trump turned his ongoing feud with Islam into an analogy about the Cold War. What is your impression of this degree of rhetoric and its effect?
Imam Ibrahim Rahim: As an American Muslim leader, I am not at all shocked by Mr. Trump’s insistence upon feuding with an entire American Faith — Islam. Whether he or the Republicans or others who support Mr. Trump realize it or not, Islam is an American Faith. While there are those who would argue the number with me, there are nearly 10 million Muslims in the United States of America. However, it is this brand of toxic and divisive rhetoric that has catapulted Mr. Trump into the Republican Party’s nomination for president of the United States.
These opinions are representative of an entire American political party that is headed by the man that they believe can “make America great again.” We have just recently suffered the devastating loss of an American imam murdered execution style on a New York sidewalk in broad daylight…. American Muslims are under physical, political and ideological siege and have become victimized by this hostile, dangerous and reckless rhetoric. The days of open mosque doors have ended. We live in a sense of enormous fear for our personal safety as a result. The days of open accessible mosques in America have followed the pattern of airports — you are literally taking your life into your own hands by attending mosque now in America because of this hateful Trumpian rhetoric.
However, the hard-cold truth is that as toxic as Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is, millions of Americans support him. As an American and a Bostonian, I harken back to the days when Irish Catholic Americans were confronted by signs in and around Boston that read, “No Dogs and Irish Allowed!” Well, add to that caption, “And No Muslims Either!”
It is now okay to oppose American Muslims at their mosques with automatic weapons in the name of “making America great again.” It now okay to assassinate imams leaving their American mosques, execution-style on American streets. All of this is about “making America great again.”
This is the burden that we must now all carry as American Muslims in the nation.
Trump has vowed to bar Muslims from entering the country, require them to take a theocracy test (written by whom?), and bring back torture techniques such as waterboarding. To the best of your understanding, how are these remarks affecting the American Muslim community?
On the point of a theocracy test, it’s simply more of the same from the leader of the Republican Party: more hate, more unconstitutional practices against a protected class. There must never be any means of “religious test” applied, but the Constitution tends not to matter today. American Muslims are now suffering where it matters most: at their colleges; at their places of work; in their communities where they live with their families; at their mosques; at their American Muslim elementary, middle and high schools.
There is an entire generation of young American Muslim kids who must now learn how to navigate this Trumpian version of America that causes other Americans to hate them for no other reason than their different faith.
If you had five minutes alone with Mr. Trump, what would you like to say to him?
I wouldn’t require five minutes with “The Donald.” I’m a man from Harlem, New York who would say to him: Your words have consequences, and the lives of the Americans your words are adversely impacting are worth much more than the value of the soundbites that they generate for your political ambitions.
Knock it off Donald, your words are killing Americans. And as someone who truly desires to be the president of the United States of America, that should concern you!