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What It's Like To Be An American Muslim After Trump's Election


Let's check in with another voice you've heard often, Arsalan Iftikhar. He often joins us for our Barbershop conversations. We've talked to him a couple of times throughout this election. He's a lawyer and an author most recently of "Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies And Threatens Our Freedoms." And he's with us now in Washington, D.C. Arsalan, thanks so much for joining us once again.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: It's always good to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: So what was your reaction when you heard and understood that Donald Trump had been elected president?

IFTIKHAR: I think, like many people in America, I didn't believe it. I think that for many people of color and minorities in the United States the prospect that such an openly racist, sexist, misogynistic candidate would ever be elected by a plurality of at least the Electoral College was something that I've never seen before in my life. And I'm quite worried for the next four years when it comes to women and Hispanics and LGBT folks and people with disabilities, African-Americans and, of course, American Muslims, in terms of how this is going to affect their lives over the next four years under a Trump presidency.

MARTIN: But why do you say that? You know, we heard from a guest just earlier in the program who co-founded a group called Latinas for Trump, who said she just doesn't understand that. She just does not understand what people are so upset about. And in fact, you know, we've had, like, three nights of protests since Donald Trump was elected. For those who don't understand that, can you explain why that is?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, you know, Michel, I think what's important to keep in mind here is not just the election of Donald Trump but the fact that he has emboldened an entire subset of the American populace who now think that it's OK to bring Nazi flags to presidential rallies. We had a middle school in Royal Oak, Mich., where middle schoolers were chanting build the wall, build the wall. We've had numerous cases of alleged hate crimes against the American-Muslim community, predominantly Muslim women who wear the hijab, the headscarf, who have been targeted in places like Columbus, Ohio, Queens, N.Y., Gwinnett, Ga., Minnesota, Michigan, San Diego State University.

Even my own sister who wears the hijab in the suburbs of Chicago, she has been verbally accosted twice by men in cars, and she was physically accosted by a woman in a store who elbowed her sharply as she walked across the aisle. And so, you know, for many minorities, people of color and other disenfranchised community, we're fearful and we're concerned that this has emboldened a subset of the American populace who's now going to lash out against these communities.

MARTIN: Why do you attribute this to the election of Donald Trump?

IFTIKHAR: Because of the fact that Donald Trump was the first major presidential candidate at the time, again, to talk about such openly racist, sexist, misogynistic things, talking about complete and total shutdown of Muslims from entering this country, having Muslims being forced to register in systems and carrying special IDs, calling Mexicans rapists, you know, tweeting out anti-African-American memes that have been supported by white nationalist groups. I always tell people, Michel, what's mind-boggling is the fact that we've now gone from our first African-American president to a president who is openly endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the leader of the American Nazi Party.

MARTIN: Several points here - number one, the people who support him say that those perspectives that he espoused or that you describe have been misinterpreted by the media and that it is a consequence of misinterpretation by the media. And their other argument is whatever you think, he has been elected.


MARTIN: He will be the president.

IFTIKHAR: He will.

MARTIN: That has to be respected.

IFTIKHAR: It does, but that also means that we, as Americans, must politically hold his feet to the fire from the first day of his presidency until the last. Let's not forget, when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the entire Republican Party basically said that it was going to be their raison-d'etre to be the obstructionist party to his policies. We had many Americans who said, yeah, he won the election, but we are going to criticize, and we are going to challenge him on every single thing that he has done. And likewise, many on the left, many minorities in America, we accept the fact of the Electoral College victory of Donald J. Trump, but we will continue to hold his feet to the fire from the first day of his presidency until the last to make sure that he protects the rights of all Americans because our job is not to make his life easier as president. His job is to make every American's life easier for us.

MARTIN: That's Arsalan Iftikhar. He's a human rights lawyer. He's the founder of themuslimguy.com. He's author most recently of "Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies And Threatens Our Freedoms." Thanks so much for joining us.

IFTIKHAR: Always good to be with you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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