SHARE FEARS, OP­TI­MISM

New Straits Times - - World -

try­ing to ban good peo­ple from com­ing to this coun­try,” Re­hab con­tin­ued, “peo­ple who’ve com­mit­ted no crime what­so­ever other than the crime of be­ing Mus­lim... We will have none of it.”

The room broke into ap­plause. The pres­i­dent’s ef­forts to in­sti­tute a ban on trav­ellers from cer­tain Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries met strong re­sponse from Mus­lim Amer­i­cans and their sup­port­ers.

But there was also fear that Is­lam­o­pho­bia was on the rise, and that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion might tar­get Mus­lims.

“There’s a real dread of what’s com­ing next, what’s go­ing to hap­pen, who will be tar­geted,” said Louise Cainkar, pres­i­dent of the Arab Amer­i­can Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion, and au­thor of a book that ex­am­ined how Arab and Mus­lim Amer­i­cans were af­fected by poli­cies fol­low­ing the Sept 11 at­tacks.

What was dif­fer­ent, she said, was that Mus­lim and Arab groups had es­tab­lished ties with other com­mu­ni­ties, and demon­stra­tions against Trump’s rhetoric draw a mix of peo­ple from var­i­ous faiths and back­grounds.

Those lis­ten­ing to Re­hab’s speech had mixed re­ac­tions: some con­cerned, oth­ers op­ti­mistic be­cause of the sense of co­op­er­a­tion with out­side groups.

“My kids are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens,” said Fra­heen Hashmi, a 36-year-old phar­ma­cist with four young chil­dren. She wor­ried that they might grow up em­bar­rassed of their her­itage or afraid to iden­tify as Mus­lim.

Zayna Saadeh was wor­ried, too. The 59-year-old Pales­tinian im­mi­grant the United States, speak­ing glow­ingly of her grand­fa­ther’s job at a lace mill in the area, where he worked as a teenager un­til his re­tire­ment more than 50 years later. And she told the story of her fa­ther, who “hopped a freight train” to Chicago dream­ing of big­ger op­por­tu­ni­ties and ended up sell­ing tex­tiles be­fore serv­ing in the Navy dur­ing World War 2.

Kings­ley, who de­scribed her­self has lived in the United States for 40 years.

“We’re not strangers in the US,” she said, “but that’s how we feel now.”

Ad­vo­cacy groups have re­ported a sharp rise in hate crimes. Anti-Mus­lim groups nearly tripled last year, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual census by the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter.

In 2015, hate crimes against Mus­lims in­creased 67 per cent, ac­cord­ing to the FBI. Those num­bers may be go­ing up, amid in­creas­ing re­ports of new in­ci­dents.

Last month, an ar­son fire dam­aged a Florida mosque, and a Kansas man was ac­cused of shoot­ing two In­dian im­mi­grants as a Clin­ton sup­porter, said the at­mos­phere in the room dur­ing Clin­ton’s speech was “ec­static”.

Lack­awanna County, where Scran­ton is, voted nar­rowly for Clin­ton, 49.8 per cent to Don­ald Trump’s 46.3 per cent, but Trump re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cantly higher per­cent­age of votes than the pre­vi­ous two Repub­li­can nom­i­nees. But his vic­tory in Penn­syl­va­nia was the first time since whom he per­ceived as Mid­dle Eastern­ers, killing one.

This week, the Is­lamic Cen­tre of Tuc­son re­ported that a van­dal scat­tered ripped up copies of the Qu­ran around the mosque.

But there had also been a ral­ly­ing re­sponse from Mus­lim groups and sup­port­ers.

Dur­ing his speech at the ban­quet hall, Re­hab pointed to new al­lies in the room — non-Mus­lim lawyers who helped trav­ellers dur­ing Trump’s ill-fated first at­tempt at a ban that trig­gered chaos at Amer­i­can air­ports un­til it was halted by US courts.

“My friends, you are the best of America,” he said.

Other at­ten­dees echoed that op­ti­mism.

“The best part is that the Amer­i­can pub­lic them­selves have be­come very gen­er­ous to us,” added Saqib Khan, a US-born lawyer of Pak­istani de­scent. AFP 1988 the state went to a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

The So­ci­ety of Ir­ish Women is a group founded in the 1990s be­cause the lo­cal chap­ter of the Friendly Sons of Saint Pa­trick, an Ir­ish-Amer­i­can group founded in 1906, did not per­mit women at its St Pa­trick’s Day event, Kings­ley said. (The na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion in­tro­duced its first fe­male mem­bers last year.) NYT

AP PIC

Hil­lary Clin­ton speak­ing at the So­ci­ety of Ir­ish Women’s an­nual din­ner on St Pa­trick’s Day in Scran­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, on Fri­day.

Ahmed Re­hab

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