This is how American Muslims feel about Trump running for president

Published: October 10, 2016
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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. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

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

  • Critical

    Muslims are afraid that Trump will treat muslims the same way Muslim countries treat Non MuslimsRecommend

  • 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

  • Patwari

    Funny, two hindus had to write comments under assumed names.
    One calling himself David Benton the other Matt Steiner.
    Get a life. Crawl back under your rocks, better still, dive back into
    the polluted toxic waters of the Ganges. Near the funerary ghats.
    Lots of choice offal to feed on.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Why Pakistani would migrate to kafir majority countries? What happened to TNT? Muslims women also dont marry non-Muslims men so is that also not racism.
    Do Muslims also pay jizya? Dont Pakistani want Sharia laws in USA and how that is constitutional? You are part of the problem.

    Do Pakistani want partition of USA or not?Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    The Problem starts when u see urself instead of american a Muslim…and this is majorly not a problem with Islamic people of India,Bangladesh,Indonesia to name a few..Major problem is with Middle east people and some people who consider themselves as sons of bin qasim such as pakistanis…What you sow is what you reap…Did anybody read about Kunduz airlift..this propoganda will not last days..days of disintegration are near…Recommend

  • Vinsin

    Your opinion is baseless too, lol. Fear mongering? LOOOL.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    America is a a very large country made up of pioneer immigrants. It has a diversity that one rarely finds in other parts of the world. Those coming from Pakistan are expressing concerns because of the uncontrolled expressions of Donald Trump in campaign reality show, appear to indicate that they are not fully integrated into the fabric of the country. I would not take his threats seriously, he is no different than a hooligan or a bully I am sure we have all witnessed in our school days. His weakness is women and it is the woman who is going to defeat him.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • wb

    “His dislike for Pakistan (as a Muslim country) is also well-known. ”

    Nobody likes Pakistan. Not even China. Although China treats you like a personal sommelier. If China had no strategic interest in Pakistan, it would have joined America in bombarding the Sunni terrorists of Pakistan.

    Also, there is nothing to like about Muslims. Muslims’ contribution for the well being of the world is Zero. But, Muslims’ contribution to the misery of the world is maximum and has been so for the last 1400 years.

    Woman, learn to see the facts and try to look at world with out wearing the goggles of Quran and Islam. Then you’ll realize that Muslims have mostly been villains to the world’s peace.Recommend

  • wb

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

  • wb

    You’re too ignorant if you think that way. There is only one difference between an average law abiding Muslim and an extremist Muslim. That is one puts his thought into action and the other doesn’t. But their thought processes, mindsets are the same. So, there’s no telling when the average law abiding Muslim suddenly becomes an extremist, because the mindset is the same.

    You’ll never know when Bisma Tirmizi will become a suicide bomber, because her mindset is no different from Osama’s mindset.

    And it comes from Islam. For your own sakes, please read Quran, Sahih Muslim and Sahih Al Bukhari and understand where Islam comes from. Learn the history of Muslims. Learn the history of Islam. Read The People vs. Muhammed. Listen to people like Ayan Ali.

    Don’t be a typical ignorant American. Learn about different sects of Islam. Trump is so wrong when he denounces the Iran peace deal. Iran peace deal is the best thing Obama did.

    Your friends in the Muslim world are Shia, Ahmadi Muslims and not Sunni Muslims. Learn. Read. Understand.

    And Hillary is so wrong when she says she will allow 65000 Syrians into America. That will destroy America which is already dying.Recommend

  • wb

    All these Muslims expressing concerns, leave America and go to Syria or Egypt or better yet, Saudi, or the best option, go to Pakistan.

    Unless you have the courage and conviction to denounce Sunni mindset in your blogs, protests, speeches, demonstrations, talks etc etc, you have no right to question American politics.

    And I’m not talking about denouncing terrorism or extremism.

    I’m talking about typical Sunni mindset which says “Mashaallah”, “Subhanallah” whenever a Naqvi, Rizvi, Ali, Zaidi are killed. I’m talking about the typical Sunni mindset that you’re entitled because you’re a follower of Rashudun. I’m talking about the typical Sunni mindset that you keep saying Inshahallah even when you breathe. I’m talking about the typical Sunni mindset that wants permission to do or permission to go to a mosque for Namaz no matter whether you’re in a school, college or working. I’m talking about the typical Sunni mindset that you want to use loud speakers as if Sunni Muslims don’t know how to read time with a watch or a mobile phone. I’m talking about the typical Sunni mindset that you think you’re superior to others and you have to do Dawa despite factually being inferior to all other races and religions.

    Bisma Tirmizi, do you have the honesty to write a blog condemning all these things? Or you’re just a typical double faced Sunni Muslim with extremist mindset but no action yet?Recommend

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    Like majority of Muslims living in different parts of the world, American Muslims and Pakistani Americans are selfish. They are unable to see beyond their noses. Present US administration of which Mrs. Clinton was an important player, over one million Muslims have been killed and millions others have lost their homes. Thanks to its ruthless, short sighted policies, four very important Muslim countries, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have been completely destroyed. Other countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Egypt have seen no improvement. Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other small states have also crossed red lines. No Muslim vs non Muslim issue such as Kashmir and Palestine has witnessed a minor step towards resolution. If they intend to vote Hillary because she is good for them, go ahead and vote for her but don’t lecture us that they are supporting her because she is good for Muslims of the world.Recommend

  • wb

    “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.

    Dear Hadia, Pakistan is not a moderate Islamic state. Pakistan is a warmonger which has waged 4 wars. Pakistan has committed multiple genocides of Bengalis, Balochis, Palestinians, minorities, Sindhis and Pashtoons. Pakistan harbors and exports terrorists to many countries around the world. Pakistan interferes in the internal matters of its neighbors. Pakistan has reduced its Hindu population from 8-10% in 1947 to less than 1% today. Constitutional persecution of Ahmadis and systemic persecution of Shias and Christians is rampant. More than 80% of Pakistani economy is black. In other words, Pakistanis are corrupt. And lying goes with corruption. Pakistan teaches hatred to its citizens and children. Pakistan has committed massacres of its languages. Pakistan has no democracy and secularism.

    By calling Pakistan a moderate state, you have proved that even well educated Pakistanis living in the west are liars. Trump should kick people like you out of the US.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

  • Tim

    How about an article on how Ahmedis actually feel in Pakistan?
    Wait that can’t happen coz they fear their lives!

    The fact that Muslims can so freely express their feelings and speak against Trump is huge indicator of how minorities are treated in these two countries.Recommend

  • David Benton

    We are not biased against Muslims, we are biased against EXTREMIST. I am not from Pakistan, but I have lived in Europe and Asia and can tell you that extremist can change the landscape of a community very quickly. Views and opinions should be encouraged. Actions should have consequences. Good actions get good consequences. Bad actions beget bad consequences. Simply properly vet those that want to come in and there is no issue. Open borders begets bad consequences, just like bad reporting and fear mongering in the press.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

  • Parvez

    That’s a bit paranoid.Recommend

  • Gopal

    Just a few years ago, in the 90’s, that’s not too long ago,
    they had concentration camps for Muslims in Serbia/Kosovo
    /former Yugoslavia. The whole world did nothing. Just look the
    other way. The Serbs were exterminating the Muslims, as
    revenge, for 400 years of Turkish rule over them in the past.
    But somebody like YOU will fail to admit this. None of the
    Muslim countries did ANYTHING. President Clinton had to
    go there and fix the Human Rights problem. But again, that’s
    your Muslim Birthright. Moan and groan gnash your teeth, cry and wail until somebody else comes and fix YOUR problems.Recommend