Photo by Lili Kibel

Dear President Trump

Can you imagine yourself living in the largest Muslim country in the world? Because I do, and I’m not ashamed to say that I do. Indonesia is my home and the people you have labeled as “terrorists” are the people I grew up with, learned with, and laughed with. They have morals, they have emotions, and most importantly, they are human. As someone who is of Chinese descent, a girl, and a Christian, I am considered a minority in Indonesia. Although I cannot say that I do not experience any kind of discrimination in my home country, I am mostly greeted with warm smiles and kind gestures as I walk down the streets of Indonesia — the complete opposite of what a Muslim would be met with walking the streets of America. The Muslims I’ve met and know are considerably open to new ideas and cultures — those of Western culture, especially — but here in America, they are treated with the opposite: ignorance and close-mindedness.

Mr. Trump, I know what it’s like to be discriminated in my own country, by the people I’ve learned to call my own people, and I can say for a fact that it hurts. I may not be a Muslim and I may not be Indonesian by blood, but it is is my home, and the red-and-white flag that waves in front of my house is one that I pay great respect to. Mr. Trump, there are at least 3.3 million people who feel the exact same way here in America. To “make America great again” you are willing to build walls and cut ties with the people you need most. You have cast away the minority — these Muslims — thinking you don’t need them, but you do. They are crucial to your success in “making America great again.”

Islamophobia is the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force. With the amount of “political force” you have, it is your duty to ensure that prejudice does not thrive within a nation, especially prejudice targeted at one specific group of people or religion. Islamophobia has been an underlying problem in America since 9/11 and Al Qaeda. Though you did not personally bring about this fear, you are not doing anything to stop this ongoing trepidation that is clearly unhealthy for the nation. The number of anti-Muslim crimes within America has risen ever since you used your presidential platform to publicly express your negative opinions on the Islamic faith. And though the number of anti-Muslims crimes was high before, you, President Trump, have pushed it over the brink.

Your travel bans forbidding people from major Muslim countries to come to the U.S. have made it clear for American citizens to think that it is acceptable to openly hate Muslims: “an arson destroyed a mosque in Victoria, Texas, just hours after [your] administration announced an executive order suspending travel from seven majority-Muslim countries” (England, Charlotte). And this is just the beginning: “the latest FBI statistics show that hate crimes against Muslims grew by 67 percent in 2015, the year in which [you] launched [your] campaign” (England, Charlotte). Although a minority, these Muslims are suffering from your so-called regime. These Muslims are still a part of America; they have voices that want to be heard, and they will help you “make America great again”, if you just help them back.

Yet, you turn your back on them as you avoid talking about the struggles they are facing. When asked about the rising Islamophobia in America, you used the question as an opportunity to rant about “radical Islamic terrorism,” completely ignoring the woman’s question and answering a different one (Ross, Janell). You, Mr. President, are “blaming an entire group based off of a couple individual’s actions.” Your policies are irrational and unfounded; take a look back in history, “you don’t see people blaming all caucasians for what the KKK did.” You have been constantly publicly attacking Muslims, making it seem okay for others to do the same; those who have been quietly discriminating Muslims are now explicitly expressing their negative opinions (Gohil, Krupa).

I took the time to find and interview people on the streets of Los Angeles. Not knowing what and how they would answer my questions concerning Islamophobia, I found that most replied negatively towards the role you play as president. These are the few ways your policies have affected the people I interviewed: Krupa Gohil’s credibility as a professional pharmacist has been belittled because people think she looks like a Muslim and concluded that she works for ISIS; her friends are afraid to put on a hijab on a daily basis because of the stares they get on the bus and airplane. Bryan Torres, who works as a car parker in the L.A. Arts District, talks of his best friend who is not allowed to see his family because his religion hinders him to do so. Your policies, Mr. President, have not helped to improve any of these people’s lives. Though these people are only three out of the 321 million people who live in America, they speak on behalf of what countless others experience everyday. There is no need to ban people, Muslims especially, from entering the country just to keep America safe. Keeping people out of the country will not make it any safer for and from the people within. Bryan Torres expresses his concern by saying that “there are other ways that [you] could stop the bad things that are going on by taking other measures.” The measures you are taking, however, is re-instigating a fear of Muslims that has somewhat subsided since the 9/11 incident. What you are doing is “a blatant example of discrimination and targeting” (Limandibhratha, Sergio).

Sergio Limandibhratha and I go to the same school in Indonesia; we are both upcoming seniors and we both have a passion for writing. Sergio doesn’t live in America; he doesn’t have to face Islamophobia there, but he is an American citizen, and he does want an American college education. Nevertheless, studying in a Christian school has exposed Sergio to the difficulties of having a religious belief completely different than everyone else around him. Despite this difference of faiths, Sergio and I have one thing in common: we know what it’s like to be different, and to be singled out because of that difference.

You, Mr. President, may not know what the Muslims in your country have gone through. You don’t know their stories and you don’t their struggles, but they want you to help them. As President of the United States of America, it is your duty to support those who call America their home. Instead, you cancelled a Ramadan dinner in the White House, ending a 20-year tradition that honors Muslims in America. In contrast to previous presidents such as Obama and Bush, you merely wrote a brief Tweet, wishing Muslims a happy Ramadan. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Muslims are left feeling unimportant. You Tweeted, “During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values” (Pearson-Jones, Bridie). If you truly meant those words, which is clear that you did not, you would not have passed a travel ban that targets Muslims specifically.

Your words and your actions are hurting you, President Trump. It should not surprise you that many people do not support you, nor do they like you and your policies. You will not get far in your goal to “make America great again” if you do not get people on your side. Of course, you won’t be able to get all 321 million American citizens to support you, but you can always start with the minority — specifically, the Muslims in this country. They are the ones who desperately need your help, so stop turning against them; you are only hurting your own reputation as a credible president. You won’t get anywhere far without these people, so help yourself by helping them. Make America great again by helping them.

Sincerely,

Tivara A. Tanudjaja