Aziz Ansari: Why Trump makes me scared for my family

Published: June 26, 2016
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PHOTO: JON HAN

“DON’T go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. Okay?”

“We’re not going,” she replied.

I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realised how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.

Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from Homeland or some monster from the news.

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.

There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the FBI is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 per cent of the Muslim American population. If you round that number, it is 0 per cent. The overwhelming number of Muslim Americans have as much in common with that monster in Orlando as any white person has with any of the white terrorists who shoot up movie theaters or schools or abortion clinics.

I asked a young friend of mine, a woman in her 20s of Muslim heritage, how she had been feeling after the attack.

“I just feel really bad, like people think I have more in common with that idiot psychopath than I do the innocent people being killed,” she said. “I’m really sick of having to explain that I’m not a terrorist every time the shooter is brown.”

I myself am not a religious person, but after these attacks, anyone that even looks like they might be Muslim understands the feelings my friend described. There is a strange feeling that you must almost prove yourself worthy of feeling sad and scared like everyone else.
I understand that as far as these problems go, I have it better than most because of my recognisability as an actor. When someone on the street gives me a strange look, it’s usually because they want to take a selfie with me, not that they think I’m a terrorist.

But I remember how those encounters can feel. A few months after the attacks of September 11, I remember walking home from class near NYU, where I was a student. I was crossing the street and a man swore at me from his car window and yelled, “terrorist!” To be fair, I may have been too quick to cross the street as the light changed, but I’m not sure that warranted being compared to the perpetrators of one of the most awful incidents in human history.

The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community “know who the bad ones are,” implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.

According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities “who the bad ones are,” or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.

One way to decrease the risk of terrorism is clear: Keep military-grade weaponry out of the hands of mentally unstable people, those with a history of violence, and those on FBI watch lists. But, despite sit-ins and filibusters, our lawmakers are failing us on this front and choose instead to side with the National Rifle Association. Suspected terrorists can buy assault rifles, but we’re still carrying tiny bottles of shampoo to the airport. If we’re going to use the “they’ll just find another way” argument, let’s use that to let us keep our shoes on.

Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on September 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but he stands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at NYU, and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

The haunting sound of the second plane hitting the towers is forever ingrained in my head. My building was close enough that it shook upon impact. I was scared for my life as my fellow students and I trekked the panicked streets of Manhattan. My family, unable to reach me on my cellphone, was terrified about my safety as they watched the towers collapse. There was absolutely no cheering. Only sadness, horror and fear.

Mr Trump, in response to the attack in Orlando, began a tweet with these words: “Appreciate the congrats.” It appears that day he was the one who was celebrating after an attack.

This post originally appeared here.

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari

The author is an actor, writer and director, is a creator of the Netflix series “Master of None.”

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

  • Jayman

    In the end the solution will only come when moderate Muslims decide that enough is enough and take control of the narrative. Apart from the “Religion of Peace” phrase being repeated ad-nauseam, there is no alternate narrative. Until that time comes, logic says that it will get bad before it gets better.Recommend

  • Ayaz

    There are 3.3 Muslims but 3.8 million people with Chinese linkage. How many Chinses have been involved in terror attacks? I guess a big fat 0 will be the answer!, That’s something to compare with. Don’t compare 3 million Muslims with 300 million American and use it as a basis of denial. Stop playing the victim now or go back to your majority Muslim country where you can have peace of mind and feel secure. Recommend

  • Kuku

    I don’t remember if “white terrorists” have ever killed Muslim/s in America but every time a Muslim terrorist kills Only non muslims??
    Why a Muslim terrorist (or mentally ill as per your understanding) never open fire on a Muslim gathering??
    It is a proof that Muslims kill “in the name of religion” and not due to a mental condition.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    There is something called blowback. I am sure you must know that the U.S. does not have a long history of exploiting the resources of China or of killing millions of Chinese in wars and daily drone attacks. A ‘big fat zero’ may not be the answer if they did bring death and destruction to the Chinese.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think this is just a rant. Trump makes you scared for your familiy but these rabid mullahs don’t? I think there is something wrong.Recommend

  • Nasir Hameed

    How about the stat that more than half of the mass shooting in America in recent history have been purported by white males. Muslims are not going back anywhere. Muslims are here to stay in America and they are to make there voices heard and reclaim the respect and dignity that they deserve in American society.Recommend

  • LS

    Another “I am a victim” blog…Recommend

  • Tahir

    blowback or duplicity? Your national states call U.S ally. Why don’t they declare a war? When filling visa forms, you belong to religion of peace and when you get there you suddenly realize that there is a blowback that needs your participation. Ask your country to declare war on U.S if you have guts. do not shoot innocent people on streets and cafes.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    In case you haven’t noticed Aziz Ansari lives and works in the U.S. Mullahs would scare him if he was living in Pakistan. What is really disturbing is to find Pakistanis defending someone who is an unabashed racist, knowing that they shall be at the receiving end of his visceral hate.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Let’s see, Muslims representing near one percent of the US population responsible for near a quarter of all recent mass shooting deaths, while white males accounting for some 30 % of US population responsible for around half of recent mass shooting deaths!
    The math suggests that Muslims account for the vast majority of mass shooting deaths in the US when adjusted for size of population! CHEERS!
    Recommend

  • rationalist

    All you have to do is to move back to your mother Islamic country and live there in peace and without fear.Recommend

  • rationalist

    Muslims invaders from Arabia, Iran, CAR’s, Afghanistan etc. invaded India and subjugated them and broke up their ancient lands. But, Hindus are not carrying out global terror attacks against Muslims. Also, Christians, for many centuries, have been similarly butchered and occupied by Muslim armies, but they haven’t resorted to terror attacks on Muslims.Recommend

  • SH

    It’s sad how “move back to your country” is the only solution you and some others can come up withRecommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Feeling “unsafe” in USA? Grow up. Post your Islamist agenda somewhere else.Recommend

  • mazharuddin

    I think that Trump has a point.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    Why any Pakistani or Muslim would support Trump is beyond belief, knowing what we have known for a long time, that he is an unashamed racist who would target Muslims with a ban on their entry; conduct surveillance of mosques; require Muslims to be registered; and make profiling, official policy.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    When, in 1940, Udham Singh assassinated General Dyer in London for the massacre of hundreds of Sikhs in Amritsar, it was blowback, not duplicity. I am not suggesting that Muslims who migrate to the U.S. to study or work should in any way engage in terrorism. What I am saying is that, unfortunate as it may sound, there will always be the chance of some lone wolf seeking vengeance, like that deranged San Bernadino couple.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Unfortunately Mullah has hijacked the minds of Muslims.They spew hate in mosques,control the textbooks’ content,and have insinuated themselves into every facet of life.And Muslims allow them space without confronting them.The narrative of many Muslims when confronted with a problem is that only Mullah knows the answer.They have made mullah into a financial,political,social science,and educational experts over people who spent all their life studying these fields.Unless and until Muslims take their faith into their own hands,and put Mullah back into the mosque,and monitor them there for hate speech,they will be thought of as others.Recommend

  • siesmann

    But they don’t go “Christ is Great” when perpetrating these crimes.Recommend

  • siesmann

    How many Vietnamese,Koreans or Japanese are becoming terrorists?How many non-Muslim Africans are blowing themselves up for having their resources exploited.And blowback works both ways.Recommend

  • abhi

    There you go. So mullahs in US are not a problem, why may I ask? Preaching a bigoted version of Islam is problem anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are in US or in Pakistan. I think the bigger problem is what is taught to Muslim in madarsas all over world, Trump is small fry infront of these hatemongers.Recommend

  • abhi

    Udham Singh didn’t kill innocent citizens of UK, he assassinated Dyer because of his involvement in massacre.Recommend

  • siesmann

    How many Pakistani textbooks teach anything about Udham Singh or any other non-Muslim freedom fighter martyrs?Many of them fought and died for every Indian including Muslims.Udham Singh called himself Ram Mohammad Singh Azad in the British court.
    And it was O’Dwyer ,the Governor at the time of Dyer’s massacre,who was killed by Udham singh.Recommend

  • Aloha

    Really?
    Then tell me what actions are being taken in Muslim countries for the Non-Muslims who feel “unsafe” and “uncomfortable”.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Don’t bother. This is a hindu writing under a Muslim name.Recommend

  • Patwari

    No need to worry. That “Ayaz” is a hindu under a Muslim name.
    All these “paid” cyber warriors infests ET. in every blog. Like
    bedbugs.
    Writing under Muslim names is the “new” trend by these hindus.Recommend

  • marik

    The US army killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese during the boxer rebellion. In the last century they fought a hard war against them in Korea with thousands killed on both sides. Did the people of the Chinatowns resort to terrorism? No.

    Why is it that most muslims consider themselves some extra special people who are the only one that have ever been subjected to injustice?Recommend

  • marik

    Trump is demonized majorly in the media but what he is demanding is very logical. Unchecked immigration by drama queens like Ansari is not good for host socieitesRecommend

  • marik

    Meaning treating muslims sort of like like they are treat non-muslims back in their own countiresRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    All countries need to ask for equal treatment from Saudi Arabia before giving facilities and equal treatment in their country. India should not give Haj subsidy to Indian Muslim till Saudis start giving aid to Hindus, Sikhs & Boudhs. Hindus have equal right to visit Macca since many of them consider Kaba as Shiv Ling. Ssudid need to facilitate Hindu’s travel and stay at Macca for his pilgrimage. Similarly Saudis need to facilitate Jews travel to Macca Madina. Daudis need to rebjild temples of 89 Bedouin deities before Islam. Once that is done then Muslim can demand good treatment from civilized ie nonMuslim world. One way exploitative demands cannot be sustained too long.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    In those days security around the leaders was not as ironclad as it is today; or else it is quite possible Udham may have targeted the common Englishmen seeing them as oppressors, which they were.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    I agree with you. Unfortunately text books all over the world tell a distorted version of history. And thank you for the correction.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    How many ‘rabid mullahs’ have you heard in the U.S.? Can you quote just one? Are you sure you are not thinking of the rabid evangelists who spew hatred 24/7 on their networks against the Muslims all across the U.S.. Close to one in four humans on the planet are Muslims. Trump is basically telling the American people that a quarter of humanity are to be hated.Recommend

  • Shahid Salam

    Unfortunately non-Muslims are seen as responsible for the West’s wars and the accompanying death and destruction, which they have nothing to do with. I condemn that.Recommend

  • Syed

    “in the last century”? Why would the Chinese of today take revenge for centuries old injustices?Recommend

  • Syed

    Trump should also go back to his grandpa’s German townRecommend

  • abhi

    There are many, and why just in US, you should be scared of mullahs in otehr countries too. Saudis, Iranians are ready to issue a Fatwa on the drop of a hat on top of that you have ISIS and AL Quaeda. You are saying that Trump is telling US to hate quarter of humanity thats why he is bad. But these mullahs tell muslims that remaining three fourth of humanity is kafir and you are not concerned about that?Recommend

  • samonrusty

    Once again, Aziz Ansari lives in the U.S. Trump worries him because he lives there. Is that too difficult to understand? The mullah in Iran or Saudi are not of any direct concern to him. Also, a) the mullahs do not tell Muslims to hate the rest of humanity and b) the vast majority of Muslims have no interest in what the mullahs say. It is Trump who wants to be the leader of a military superpower, with enough firepower to destroy the planet. It is absurd to compare that to the fatwas.Recommend

  • abhi

    If he is so scared why he lives there? He can very well go to Saudi Arebia and have a terror free life.Recommend

  • Aly Sher

    I will help you with why. If you read history of Indian Hindus for example, they have bowed down to any invader that has conquered their areas throughout history. We on the other hand are resilient. We don’t take slavery kindly. We fight back. Recommend