Dear Muslims Worldwide, I'm American And Donald Trump Doesn't Represent Me

by John Haltiwanger
Getty Images

Dear Muslims around the world,

I'm sure by now you've heard Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently called for banning all Muslim immigration to the United States.

I won't lie to you, there are people in this country who agree with him -- but I am not one of them, and I'm far from alone. Donald Trump does not represent America. He stands against all of our inherent values and is a national embarrassment.

No one could blame you if Trump's actions led you to generalize about all Americans. After all, it seems every single time there's a terror attack all of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are deemed complicit.

It's sad this occurs and that you are left feeling the need to apologize for and condemn abhorrent events you had nothing to do with. This type of prejudice is not only irrational and inexcusable, it's dangerous.

With that said, while I don't associate with Trump or his xenophobic, bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric whatsoever, I apologize on behalf of my country. I unequivocally condemn Trump's despicable statements and, as you've been forced to say after terror attacks, he speaks and acts "not in my name." 

I'd also like to note denouncing Trump's rhetoric doesn't in any way excuse the awful things the US government did in predominately Muslim countries both before and after 9/11, but it's still beneficial and important for us to stand against intolerance whenever it arises.

It seems Trump and his supporters are exhibiting animosity toward Muslims out of both fear and ignorance. In other words, they just don't know what they're talking about.

Well, here is what I, and many other Americans, know.

I know ISIS, and other extremist groups, are not representative of Islam. I know the vast majority of you are nonviolent individuals who, like most of us, just want to live peaceful and happy lives.

I know terror organizations like ISIS kill more Muslims than any other group, which makes it ridiculous for people in the West to condemn Islam and incite fear and suspicion against refugees from the Middle East.

I know, having traveled to the Middle East, there is a striking amount of diversity among Muslims and it would be wrong to paint all of you with the same brush.

I will also say every single Muslim I met was incredibly friendly and prided his or herself in treating me with nothing but hospitality.

Even complete strangers treated me as one of their own, which makes it shameful there are people from my country who wish to shut the door on you.

I know my friends who are Muslim, or from predominately Muslim countries, are wonderful people. The ones who are currently in America are doing great things and the ones who aren't would undoubtedly contribute in extremely positive ways if they ever came here.

I know in the year 1777 the first country in the world to formally recognize the United States as an independent nation was Morrocco -- a Muslim nation. That means my country can count Muslims among its earliest allies.

I know the founders of my country, albeit flawed in many ways, saw no reason to discriminate against Muslims and admired their work ethic.

I know there were even Muslim soldiers serving under the command of General George Washington during the American War for Independence. Muslims bravely served in many American wars, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

I know Thomas Jefferson, our third president, owned a Quran and argued for religious tolerance and civil rights for all faiths, including Muslims.

But I won't hide the fact the earliest Muslims in America were African slaves forcibly brought to my country. They were often unable to maintain their religion, as many were forced to convert to Christianity. This is something my fellow Americans would do well to remember as they react to Trump's discriminatory stances.

Unfortunately, much of the intolerance exhibited toward Muslims in the US today is part of a long tradition of oppression, xenophobia, racism and bigotry in my country.

This country was founded by slaveowners and we gained the land we now inhabit by slaughtering Native Americans. We are still dealing with the legacies of these ugly truths in the present day.

America might be a nation of immigrants, but throughout its history large portions of the population exhibited animosity toward new arrivals to our shores: the Irish, Italians, Mexicans and many others.

I suppose I'm telling you all of this because I hope you understand America is a relatively young nation when it comes down to it, and very much a work in progress.

But the reason we've somehow found a way to function and move forward thus far is that there are always people in this country willing to stand up for what is right -- even if they aren't the majority (unfortunately, for example, around 55 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Islam).

In spite of the unsettling hatred that's currently on display in this country, there are many who would welcome you with open arms.

The fact of the matter is there is really no single thing that defines what an "American" is. Theoretically, anyone can be an American, which is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of this passionate but deeply flawed and often disunited land.

America is an experiment that requires habitual metamorphosis. The more diverse we become the stronger we become, but many often lose sight of this.

Change can be ugly, painful and difficult, which is why we encounter individuals like Trump who seek to slow us down as we strive to progress. In spite of these obstacles, there is always hope. So please don't give up on us just yet.


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