An Open Letter To Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and 72% of NC Conservatives

I was born in Cairo, Egypt, to a loving Muslim family that values equality, justice, and, above all, peace. We moved to the United States when I was young and bopped around a bit before settling down in North Carolina, where we’ve lived since I was 7. I’ve always been proud of my heritage and where I come from, and it’s something I like for people to know; not just my nationality, but my religion as well.

I’m a Muslim-American, which, if you haven’t been paying attention to the news for the past 14-odd years, isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s what I am and what I’ve been for a long time. Sometimes I felt like I had to choose a side, that my Americanness cancelled out the Muslim in me, or maybe that being a Muslim meant I couldn’t truly be an American, but I learned the truth a long time ago. I was naturalized as an American when I was 17 years old, a full decade after moving to America, and I’ve been a Muslim-American every single day ever since.

I’ve spent most of my life in a society that proudly displays its first amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion among others and have grown to take these for granted. However, when Al Jazeera reports that 72% of North Carolina conservatives agreed with Dr. Carson’s misguided thought that a Muslim should not be allowed to be president, I was confused to say the least. When I read on that 40% thought that Islam should be illegal, I was appalled and frankly, disgusted.

My first reaction was that I want to move as far away from North Carolina as possible, but the problem is that I still consider it home. I grew up here, I went to school here, I graduated from THE University of North Carolina. So, no, this problem isn’t going to be solved by me leaving. My next thought was that maybe that 72% should leave North Carolina. If they’re so uncomfortable with the idea of a Muslim as anything other than what they see on TV and they’re committed to the idea of outlawing Islam, maybe they should move elsewhere, perhaps a country that would allow the prohibition of a religion. Wherever this hypothetical country is, I hope it’s cold, but I hope their bigotry keeps them warm.

Finally, I came to the realization that the only way that 72% is going to understand and recognize their mistake is if they meet a Muslim, like a real-life Muslim, and recognize that we’re exceptionally normal. We shop at the same grocery stores and go to the same schools as everyone else, we play on the same sports teams and watch the same TV shows (apart from Fox News, we try to avoid that one). If you’d just take a minute and get to know a Muslim, you’ll quickly realize that the problem we’re dealing with isn’t a religion. It’s a group of people who have taken a religion, MY religion, and twisted it in a way that both you and I consider barbaric.

That is why I write this today, in the hopes that Donald Trump or Ben Carson or that 72% might stumble across this and rethink their position. If you want to meet a Muslim, but don’t know where to find one, you’re welcome to talk to me. You can find me in North Carolina, it’s where I’ve lived since I was a kid. It’s my home.

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