This is how American Muslims feel about Trump running for president

Published: October 10, 2016

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the start of the second US presidential town hall debate between Trump and Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, US, October 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

As a Pakistani growing up in Pakistan, I grew up watching undignified politicians. That was my norm. I trudged along my childhood, wonder years, idealistic teens and 20s, and jaded adulthood, along the lines accepting politicians to be lacking in persona, dignity and honesty. In essence, consenting to the tragedy of a deceitful and corrupt political system, where accusations and the actuality of rigged elections, killing, bullying and being a thug is a badge of honour – in and out of office. 

This is unlike the United States (US), where truthiness is considered essential though political lies are rampant, and selective accountability with the appearance of dignity is considered a norm. Until now, until Trump entered the political arena and made it all kosher, and I, and all Pakistani immigrants like me, found themselves sitting through an American election cycle reminiscent of back home.

As Trump’s racist rants increased, so did his momentum, fueling his odious rhetoric and intensifying his support base. And suddenly the genuine unease of the non-whites, the immigrants, the second-generation immigrants, and the others, as to what the outcome of November 8, 2016 would mean for the non-Caucasians?

The melting pot called America suddenly demanded that the only legitimate menu item at the table was the one that pushed out the originals of the land – The Native Americans. They argued that to make ‘America Great Again’, all the others, who make it ‘un-great’ and diverse, must succumb to segregation-like racial profiling, rules, regulations and laws, bordering on all things un-American and unconstitutional.

Trump’s language found fuel in the underbelly of the bigots, and its oxygenation started a fire that cannot be extinguished; curtailed – maybe, controlled – partially, but never extinguished.

To get a barometer of the unease, I spoke to several Pakistani immigrants, first and second generation, some who have been established in the US for decades, having raised families and become grandparents, others on legitimate work visas. All working in well-paying white-collar jobs, tax paying citizens, and/or having a legitimate work visa status. Here are their varied responses.

Q. As a decades old immigrant, someone who has seen many election cycles and has been actively involved in politics, building bridges between Pakistani immigrants and the local and national politicians, and who has also raised children in the US, what do you feel about Trump on the ballot and his impact on Pakistanis living here, and on Pakistan, if he were to win?

A. America is inherently a country of immigrants. The US constitution under the 14th amendment explicitly provides equal protection of law to all its citizens.

Mr Trump knowingly opted to take a position contradictory to the constitution. Having lived through multiple elections over 40 years, such a stand along with the extreme language used for all minorities would have ended any candidate’s prospects to go beyond the primaries, but such was not the case this election cycle.

Mr Trump’s stated position against all Muslims and American Muslim citizens, in particular, should be a cause for concern to all Americans. His dislike for Pakistan (as a Muslim country) is also well-known. This has the potential for far reaching negative consequences to US/Pakistan relations on the world stage. He has called for extreme vetting of all Muslims entering the US, including American Muslims returning to the US. Mr Trump’s current position, expressed repeatedly, makes one believe he actually means what he says.

This is indeed a cause for serious concern for all minorities in America. He has called for the surveillance of mosques and religious profiling of Muslims. It would not be of concern if 40% of Americans were not supporting his extreme posturing. These are difficult times for all minorities in America. It’s time for all to be resolute in defending their rights and speak up in every forum.

As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said,

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’

Hence to make this statement true, every citizen needs to refuse to consent by actively participating in the electoral process and to cast their ballots.

America is indeed one of a handful of countries where one has the best shot at justice being served through a democratic process.

Dr Ikram Khan, a Las Vegas surgeon and health care industry consultant who, among other professional and community activities, served on the National Veterans Affairs Commission on Care and sits on the Nevada Homeland Security Commission.

Q. As an immigrant, what do you feel about Trump on the ballot? How do you think it has impacted your children who moved to the US with you, a decade and a half ago, when they were in their teens, and since then have associated with this country as their home?

A. As an immigrant and especially as a Muslim immigrant, I am very apprehensive of the day Trump is elected! I feel that besides those who know me well, others might look at me with suspicion. My daughter, who is married and is traveling to Pakistan on a family trip this fall, I am worried at the prospect that if Trump is elected, and she is in Pakistan it might have some bearing on her return. What if unnecessary obstacles are created on her entering the US; it’s happened to minorities before, hasn’t it? My daughter is prepared to relocate from the US if Trump is elected and says,

‘I do not want to raise my kids in this environment!’

I, too, wonder if my co-workers and friends think about me being Muslim and Pakistani. Especially since the media keeps harping on home grown terrorists!

Like, they don’t already know.

We are all under the microscope for scrutiny.

However, I find strength in the fact that I’m a good citizen and have nothing to fear. I want to be here and make a difference and show them that I’m a proud and honest person. I want to be an ambassador for all things that make this nation great – its diversity.

Khatija Syedmiddle school teacher.

Q. As a high official on visa, working in the US, what do you feel about Trump on the ticket, and the impact it has on non-immigrant Pakistanis living here? 

A. America has always been at the forefront of democratic evolution. When I moved here in 2015 I assumed the political climate would be mature. However, it seems the media is no different than the shrill siren that the Pakistani media exuded, and the political environment reminds me of an MNA election in a district in Pakistan.

The anti-Muslim comments by Donald Trump have certainly got me thinking that moving back to Pakistan would be better. On a positive note: Pakistan seems to be a more evolved democracy in comparison!

Tariq Paracha, software engineer.

Q. As an affluent immigrant, and a professional woman, working and raising millennial, what do you feel about Trump on the ballot, and the hate he is spewing? How do you think it impacts you as a Pakistani American, and Pakistan?

A. As a Pakistani born Muslim American physician working in Boston for almost 20 years and raising two wonderful, brilliant and happy boys, it has been a very bizarre election year. I keep thinking this cannot be happening, not in America!

Trump is inappropriate, racist, bigoted and a liar. He has no qualifications to run for office, I would understand if the same were happening in a third world country, but this is America, and he is running to become president for the greatest office in the greatest country. It is beyond comprehension. For the first time, I’m embarrassed as an American. I used to tell my kids the story and legacy of President Obama, what do I tell them now?

Thanks to him, every bigot and racist has a platform now.

America is the greatest country in the world, because its biggest import has been the brainpower, in the form of immigrants, from all over the world. It has rewarded and welcomed genius and brilliance from all over.

I am worried for my kids.

I feel they will be judged for the colour of their skin, and their parents’ country of origin, instead of their accomplishments. Being a physician and a very important community worker, I have always been respected, but for the first time I feel I have to work harder to prove myself.

I am scared for Pakistan too. It is a moderate Islamic state, and has been America’s biggest ally for years, and also the affected victim of the Taliban and the extremist jihadists. Instead of helping it fight the extremist elements, it’s being punished for not doing enough.

Hadia Ali, practicing physician.

The answers to my questions, though from a diverse group of white-collar professionals, got me similar answers. Whereas in the past, having observed many election cycles, I have witnessed Pakistani Americans become conflicted about whether to vote as a democrat or a republican, but this time they all sing the same tune – and the unifying factor is Donald Trump. Having observed a gathering of Pakistanis for the Clinton/Trump debate viewing, I decided to ask a follow-up question.

Q. What did you think of the recent Clinton/Trump debate, do you think the debate changed anything at all? What do you hope the outcome of the debate will be, and how will it impact the Pakistani Immigrant?

A. This presidential debate was a historical first in many ways. Most specifically, it displayed a stark contrast between the candidates. Hillary Clinton was well-informed, methodical, calm and poised despite the aggressive posturing, lacking in substance, from the republican nominee.

The general consensus, according to media reports is that Clinton won the debate. However, historically debates have had no consistent impact on the outcome of the elections one-way or the other. Hence, not much changes for Americans, immigrants or otherwise, unless we cast a ballot.

Dr Ikram Khan

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A. I thought Clinton was poised, composed and articulate on the stage and this would be the view of all voters who have already decided that they will vote for her. As for the ones on the side-lines, and the ones who hate her, there is no convincing them. There has been no lack of material before the debate to change their minds so why would they change now! They might vote for a third party but they won’t vote for Hillary. This essentially means that nothing changes.

Aneeqa Akhtar, engineer/MBA

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A. It is alarming that a prospective presidential candidate stands and spews a narcissistic attitude, racist inclination and misogynist views, and is still in a neck-to-neck contentious presidential race. If we have moved forward as a human race, we also are moving backwards. Very alarming!

Asma Tahir, trainee research associate environmental lab, UNLV/Member Governors Mental Health Commission

Statements made against Muslims, if tolerated, could create a backlash against an American minority that is mostly viewed as hardworking and law abiding; and this kind of racism (if left unchecked) will give rise to a dangerous precedent of openly condemning minorities and getting kudos for it. Until recently, I believed that American leaders are held to a higher standard than an average person, but that belief has come crashing down.

Apparently being politically incorrect in the game of politics has become fashionable in the US, hopefully come this November, Mrs Clinton can change that. Hope springs eternal.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Biggpoppa

    He is right Recommend

  • ruser

    he is toast with the orange marmalade.Recommend

  • David Benton

    This is a baseless article. The problem is with extremists, not the average law abiding Muslim citizen in America. Shame on you for yet more fear mongering by your bias. You are part of the problem. Failure to recognize a real threat and the failure to take action because news outlets like yours want to demonize those who are concerned for our overall safety will lead us into a period of terrorism in America similar to the middle east.Recommend

  • Matt Steiner

    I know right? Minorities expressing their opinions based on their views is always so baseless. It’s not like we are biased against Muslims in this country or anything, shame on them! David you are from Pakistan too right? You tell this Tirmizi person exactly how it is!Recommend

  • wb

    . Today, the tiny Christian community go by names like Danish, Younus etc. No David or John or Joseph left in Pakistan.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    They are largely irrelevant and occasionally pop up to play the victim card.Recommend

  • Parvez

    My advice to the author and those like her……..how may ships will you jump ? The one you are on now is about the strongest and most stable one in the world, just because it has hit turbulent weather should not force you to panic…..show some strength and be thankful for what you have.Recommend

  • Gopal

    Really? Hmmm…You remember Hitler? He came into power
    the same way. People/nations took him for nothing, a non entity.
    He made the same promises.. He will make Germany great again.
    The Trump promises sound familiar to you? Make a nation great again.
    Hitler ended up killing 6 million Jews, about 23 million Russians
    and no one knows the real figures of how many Western European
    were killed.
    Actually, they will never know the true real figures of how many people
    died or were killed during the Second World War.Recommend