“Our Friends And Our Neighbors”

We must proclaim the truth about who Muslim-Americans really are.

Before leaving to celebrate Christmas Eve at our cousins’ house last week, my brother, Adam, and I shuffled down our driveway and across the ice-paved street to deliver gifts to a few neighbors. Being our block’s holiday couriers is a tradition that began more than a decade ago when the neighbors found it cute to see two Santa hat-clad boys knocking on their door with presents in tow.

We still make the deliveries each Christmas Eve as adults, nowadays less for the cute factor (though we’ve still got it) and more to catch up and chat. Our favorite visit is always t0 the couple across the street, where we’re invited inside to the dining room table and offered something delicious — dates, macaroons, and baklava this year. The array of treats are as diverse as the couple themselves; Shahin is from Iran, and his bride, Lih-in, is from China by way of Taiwan.

We talked for a half hour or so, laughing a lot. (When asked if their son has a girlfriend: “No, no. I think he has dry streak.”) They’re wonderful people, the kind of people that make you glad to have neighbors.

On the car ride to my cousins’ house later that evening, it occurred to me that theirs is the kind of family that Donald Trump wants to split up. If Trump’s proposed ban of Muslim people were to go into effect, Shahin — a Muslim man — would not be able to visit his family in Iran, as he often does, because he would be disallowed from returning to the United States. Shahin’s Iranian relatives would also be barred from visiting the U.S. under this policy.

To state the obvious: Trump’s proposed ban is obviously and viscerally terrible. It is blatant bigotry. It is propaganda that misleads Americans into thinking that Muslims pose the greatest threat to our country (when, in fact, that honor belongs to white Americans). It is also very likely unconstitutional. However, it’s also fairly popular, particularly amongst conservative voters who’ve carried Trump to 25 consecutive weeks atop national polls.

That last part bears repeating because holy shit. For nearly half a year, Donald Trump — business man, reality TV personality, noted goon — has been the most likely Republican nominee for the Presidency. With just 12 weeks until the first primary elections, we can’t laugh him away any longer. Donald Trump wields significant influence in this country; what he says actually — sadly — matters. His bigoted statements echo ceaselessly on 24-hour news networks, and his campaign has given xenophobes and white supremacists across the country validation and encouragement.

As if that isn’t troubling enough, Trump’s rhetoric casts Muslim Americans as inherently villainous people and as semi-citizens who are altogether unwelcome in the United States.

This is an intolerable lie. All Americans of goodwill should speak out against this perversion of truth vociferously, as President Obama modeled when addressing the nation two weeks ago:

“Muslim-Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes. And, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.”

Amen.

Because we have been baraged with lies and Islamaphobia, it is important to remember who Muslim people-Americans really are. People. Fellow citizens. Companions on the journey to the grave. Neighbors and friends, teachers and mentors. Beloved members of the human family, as we all are.

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