Dear President-Elect Trump,
I know it is highly unlikely that you will ever read this letter. First of all, I doubt that you read Al Jumuah Magazine, although I think that you would learn a great deal from it, if you did. Second, people who have worked closely with you, such as your ghost writer for The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, have said that you hardly ever read, that you prefer television’s “easily digested sound bites,” and have a very short attention span (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all ). Since this letter will be longer than a 140-character Tweet, I doubt that you will be able to reach its conclusion. Perhaps I’ve lost you already; we are already 400 characters beyond your capacity. Nevertheless, I will persevere while we still have freedom of speech in this country. I am not sure how long we journalists will retain that right under your leadership, so I might as well use it while I can.
Mr. Trump, as you must realize, your victory on November 8 was an unpleasant surprise to many Americans. You immersed yourself in scandal from the beginning of your campaign when you associated Mexicans with crime, drugs, and rape. Over the course of a year, you insulted a disabled reporter, a Gold Star family (who happen to be Muslims), black Americans, and a former “Miss Universe,” just to name a few. You were caught on tape bragging about groping and kissing women without their consent, and then were formally accused of sexual assault by a dozen women. You proved to have so little self-control that, in the final days before the election, your aides reportedly took away your Twitter account so that you would stop self-sabotaging your campaign with uncontrolled rants. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/07/us/politics/donald-trump-presidential-race.html).
It seemed impossible that the country would pick you, and yet they did. Well, at least the Electoral College did. As you know, Hillary beat you by millions of votes. For a man who hates to lose, that must have been a bitter pill to swallow.
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Nevertheless, you are set to become our new president on January 20, and all Americans – even the terrified ones – have to come to grips with that. Among my acquaintances and extended family are some Trump-supporting, white Christians. In response to the anger and dismay that I have felt since that ominous morning of November 9, they keep trying to reassure me that everything will be “fine” for our country – and for me and my Muslim family in particular.
Mr. Trump, they don’t think you’ll really follow through with your assertion back in November of 2015 that you will “certainly,” “absolutely” force Muslims to register in a database (http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/11/20/donald-trump-says-hed-absolutely-require-muslims-to-register/). They don’t believe you really meant your campaign statement in December of 2015 that, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” (http://fortune.com/2016/06/28/donald-trump-muslim-ban/). They apparently are not alarmed by your choices of extremely controversial cabinet members and advisers, like Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and Michael Flynn (http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/11/donald-trump-mike-flynn-national-security-adviser), all of whom have a disturbing history of making racist, Islamophobic, and/or anti-Semitic remarks.
When one of your surrogates, Carl Higbie, told Fox News that there is a historical precedent for internment camps (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/us/politics/japanese-internment-muslim-registry.html) that could go hand in hand with a Muslim registry, many people dismissed the subsequent outcry as overreaction.
Mr. Trump, believe it or not, sometimes I am tempted to think that no one in this country is taking you seriously! They apparently don’t think that you’ll actually do half the things that you say you’ll do. That makes me wonder why on earth they voted for you, since clearly they don’t think you’re a man of your word.
On the other hand, white supremacists and the KKK do seem to be taking your statements at face value. They have made it clear that your ascension is a victory for them and the propagation of their hateful message. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/us/politics/white-nationalists-celebrate-an-awakening-after-donald-trumps-victory.html They suddenly feel like their movement is gaining widespread acceptance and legitimization. Does that concern you at all, Mr. President-Elect? Does that tell you anything about the message you are conveying and the kind of hatred you are sowing in our nation?
Mr. Trump, I am a third-generation American, born and raised in Missouri. My father was a Vietnam Veteran. If you spoke with me on the phone, you would hear my Midwestern accent, listen to my words, and assume that I was the Girl Next Door. And in many ways I am a typical American woman. I am also a Muslim. Those terms are not mutually exclusive. Why should they be? This country was founded with freedom of religion as a cornerstone, and Islam has been part of its history since its inception.
Did you know that several Muslims served under the command of General George Washington? Did you realize that an estimated 10 to 15 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslims, and many of them were highly educated? Are you aware that a marble likeness of Prophet Mohammad adorns the U.S. Supreme Court chamber, along with other “great lawgivers of history?” Have you read that currently, an estimated 10% of all physicians in the United States are Muslims? (http://www.chicagonow.com/midwestern-muslim/2014/01/muslims-dont-contribute-to-america-think-again/) And are you aware that that there are approximately 3.3 million Muslims living in this country today?( http://www.ibtimes.com/how-many-muslims-live-united-states-pew-research-center-releases-new-figures-2255657)
I don’t think you know American Muslims at all, Mr. Trump. I invite you to get to know us. Visit our masajid (mosques) and talk with our leaders, our scholars, and our passionate activists. Listen to our concerns and hear our suggestions. Stop demonizing us and instilling fear of us and our faith. We are not the enemy. We are a diverse, talented, vibrant community who are a fundamental and positive part of the fabric of this nation. Many of us were born here; this is our only home. We are raising our families here, contributing to our communities, immersing ourselves enthusiastically in so many aspects of American life.
Like every other citizen, we are entitled to full rights granted under the Constitution as we seek “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And just as I am the Girl Next Door with my pale skin and Midwestern twang, so is my best friend, who is a second-generation American Muslim whose parents immigrated from Pakistan. So are my dark-skinned sisters who were born in this country and face a double stigma of being black and Muslim. So are my Latina sisters who chose to convert to Islam. All of us, in our marvelous diversity and the scarves on our heads, are the Girl Next Door.
All of us are as American as you are!
I shouldn’t have to say this, Mr. Trump, but I want to reassure you that I condemn terrorism. So do the vast majority of Muslims in the world. Despite the fact that more fatal attacks in this country are committed by white supremacists than so-called “radical jihadists,” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/24/majority-of-fatal-attacks-on-us-soil-carried-out-b/ )
Muslims like me face suspicion, discrimination, bullying, and assault. It is up to you to set a positive tone for this country. Your words will either inspire cooperation, kindness, and tolerance, or they will stoke the fires of fear and hatred that will tear our nation apart. Please choose your path wisely.