The election of Donald Trump as president is a concern for a number of people. Trump has singled out Muslims as people he wants to stop from immigrating to the United States.
A Detroit native, Saladin Ahmed is an Arab American science fiction and fantasy writer. In the past, his family has been target by Islamophobic bigots, including the burning of a community center that helped Arab immigrants. His family founded that center.
Ahmed joined us today.
In case you don't remember Trump's call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States":
“The real terror comes not so much from Trump’s words, but the kind of barely contained glee of his audience,” Ahmed told us, referring to Trump’s statement above.
“I guess that’s the real concern for Muslims, is, you know, Trump is one man, but when you hear these sort of sentiments being just received with almost rapture, like people are just dying to hear someone say this, it’s pretty chilling.”
In the last weeks of the presidential campaign, Trump has backed off some of his stronger statements about Muslims and Arab Americans. But Ahmed told us that hasn’t mitigated concerns about Trump or his followers.
“Not one whit,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the details of the proposals that scares people. It’s the tenor of just bigotry and xenophobia and hatred that he’s kind of created with his campaign, and now that it looks like he’s going to take to the presidency and kind of establish in our government.”
Ahmed told us the Trump candidacy and his election as president has “absolutely” normalized Islamophobia and “a broad range of bigotries.”
“Are there masses of people now who hold prejudices that they didn’t have a year ago? No, I don’t think so. But are the many, many, many people who hold those prejudices and have this kind of barely checked hate, do they sort of feel like their gloves are off now? It sure seems that way.”
“Even the more conservative members of the community are sort of seeing that there’s real hatred that’s the motivating energy of this party right now,” he said.
Ahmed has two children, a pair of six-and-a-half-year-old twins. Even before Trump’s election, Ahmed told us they’ve each independently experienced prejudice.
“They’ve already encountered comments, and you know, my son, he’s heard things. He asked me months ago, are we going to have to leave if Donald Trump becomes president?” he said. “That’s the real thing that terrifies me, is just this general climate that we’re going to be creating for our children with having Trump and folks like him in power, the kind of official line being that [my children] and people like them aren’t welcome here. It’s terrifying, honestly.”
Ahmed and his wife sat down with their children the day after the election to talk about what happened. They had some understanding of who Donald Trump was and what a Trump presidency might mean, he said, and they wanted to assure the kids that they would be protected and taken care of.
But when Ahmed and his wife are alone, he said the “confident facade” comes down.
“Do I know that I can protect my kids? This really calls that into question over the long term and frightens me in a way that few things have in terms of wanting to protect my family. I was in New York City on 9/11, and I feel more afraid today then I did then, to be quite honest.”