by Jacob Hoopes ‘19
Saleema Walter ’19 is a member of a growing community in the United States who are practitioners of the Islamic faith. Recently, with the rise of a particular brand of politics – spearheaded by President Donald Trump – Muslims have come into the center of national discussion, but often with only a small part of the story being told.
President Donald Trump has said that he actively supports the move to build a wall between the USA and Mexico, as well as repeating many times that he wishes to enact regulations on Muslims entering or living in the United States. His critics believe the proposed ban on all Muslims would conflict strongly with the First Amendment, the right to speak freely and practice one’s own religion; it would also severely hurt dialogue with countries with a majority-Muslim populace, critics believe, many of which are in the Middle East, an area that the United States has deep political ties to.
While President Trump and followers have promoted measures against Muslims and other groups, critics feel they fail to realize that the freedom given to them is intended by the Constitution for people of all beliefs. Such a double standard would almost be the textbook definition of hypocrisy.
Often what Trump shares denies the existence of millions of people, say those who oppose him. For instance, he said during the second presidential debate: “I think Aleppo is a disaster, humanitarian-wise…. I think that it, basically, has fallen.” This would suggest that President Trump does not think about the people still in Aleppo; he does not even seem to process that those still in Aleppo are people.
This idea is present in many of the things that he says, from building a wall, through his views on women, to the ban of Muslims throughout the USA.
As a practicing Muslim in the United States, Saleema Walter is a member of the group that Trump and Trump’s supporters have taken aim at. During an interview, Saleema pointed out that “[Trump] is not afraid to express his opinions, even if they are controversial.” She then compared Trump’s idea of creating something that identifies Muslims and distinguishes them from the rest of society to what Hitler did when he oversaw the passage of a law requiring Jews to wear yellow stars.
“I am a Muslim in America, I have rights, and [Trump] is saying Muslims should all go back to their country. That kind of idea is surprising. That someone, a well known figure around the world, would say something like that. An idea that affects millions and millions of people. That was kind of shocking. That someone would actually say something like that. I’ve never seen or heard something like that before.”
Saleema also talked about how her grandparents’ view of Islam is very much like Trump’s. Saleema’s parents converted to Islam and her grandparents did not approve of it, but Islam is part of their lives. They have chosen to view the religion and its practitioners in the same way as Trump, that is, negatively. But Saleema and her family have managed to live with each other. Saleema’s family is a prime, but miniature, example of how the United States could exist without the proposals that Trump has put forward — coexisting without exclusion.
A lot of progress can be made in the way of acceptance in these United States, but there is no need for radical measures like what Trump suggests, nor is it reasonable to assume everyone and everything will be free of bias when the sun next rises.
Whatever happens, it will take time.