Officials from the nation’s largest Muslim organization speak out against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, but also say that the Democrats’ silence over Islamophobia gives them concern
JULIA A. SHEARSON: We’re here today to help stop and challenge Islamophobia. We’re very concerned about the rise of Islamophobia and the stigmatization of Muslims in America. We believe it’s unconstitutional. We believe it’s harmful to the fabric of American society, and we don’t think it will help us in the war on terrorism. It will actually, you know, feeds into the narrative of our opponents that the West is in a war with Islam. And they want to divide the American people, they want to make sure that we’re in complete chaos and that we’re not strong and united. So we’re very concerned, the use of fear and pandering as a political tool. DONALD TRUMP: Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country. They enslave women, and they murder gays. I don’t want them in our country. When I’m elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies until we fully understand how to end these threats. NADIA KANJI, TRNN: Do you think if the U.S. were to change its foreign policy, namely the Middle East, that we would see maybe a lessening of Islamophobia at home? SHEARSON: Absolutely. I think that success in the Middle East is going to absolutely require an entire reassessment of how we have been actors in the Middle East. We need to work together with our allies to come up with a strategy that works cooperatively with the Muslim people there and with civil society, and to help promote a true democracy in the Middle East. NIHAD AWAD: He has been shooting out his mouth, giving ideas that do not comply with the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws. And therefore, American Muslims should not be the only one to be concerned about them being targeted by his future administration if he becomes. But the damage that he has caused is already there. And we need not to scapegoat any minority just because it is a minority. America needs unity, it needs leadership, it is understanding and respectful for each other. And our Constitution is our best safeguard. Let’s not shred it, let’s not throw it away, just because we want to be leaders at the expense of feelings and rights of other Americans. KANJI: Are you hopeful that Trump has appointed Mike Pence as his VP nominee, given that he has condemned the ban on Muslims that Trump has talked about? AWAD: I mean, I believe there are many, many good people in the GOP leadership. There are many people who are very concerned about Donald Trump’s rhetoric that are not only un-American, they’re illogical. And they’re scared that they’re losing control over the GOP, over the big tent, over the message. I hope that we will see some positive signs that some people would reject Islamophobia, whereas they would reject bigotry against any minority in America. SHEARSON: Cleveland is really an amazing city that was founded on diversity. We have hundreds of different immigrant groups here from all over the world, from Africa, from Europe. This is an old immigrant town, and its great steel mills were built on the backs of laborers who came from all over the world, particularly from Europe. And our rails were laid and our steel was milled, and all of the wealth that you see around here, these great edifices of what is truly one of the most amazing cities, we have great art museums, great institutions, all of these were built, frankly, with the hands of immigrant laborers who came here. And Muslims are just the latest in the line of immigrants, although 30 percent of Muslims are African-American, so they’re indigenous to the country. Muslims are contributing members of society. We just need to be given a fair chance to show who we are. KANJI: And will you be at the Democratic National Convention? SHEARSON: Well, I think members of the Muslim community will certainly be there. Probably our East Coast chapters will be over there. You know, frankly, I have similar concerns about the Democratic Party. Not so much about hating on Muslims, but they’ve been pretty much silent for the last decade since 9/11. They’ve been almost completely silent until very recently in condemning Islamophobia and bigotry. They’ve almost treated the Muslim community as radioactive, that they weren’t all that interested in our vote or associating with us. And I think that’s very problematic.