Those of you who know me know that outside the workplace, I hold little back when it comes to my social and political opinions. And yet I have thus far hesitated to write anything about Donald Trump during his bewildering, embarrassing time in the political sphere. I was hoping, I suppose, that he would just disappear. Then when he didn’t, I suppose I was waiting for him to say something so repulsive and personal that I could no longer stay silent.
Congratulations, Mr. Trump. You, who believe we as Muslim women are not allowed to speak, have managed to break this Muslim woman’s silence.
You have single-handedly led the most vulgar, divisive, and disrespectful political campaign of my lifetime. You have alternately marginalized and insulted Muslims, women, African Americans, and immigrants. You have supported bullying and name-calling. You have regressed to an intellectual and moral level I cannot even attribute to a five-year-old, because even five-year-olds raised right know that you cannot simply “hit” someone with whom you disagree.
You have repeatedly, unapologetically, proudly even, legitimized evil. And I want you to know that before this letter, I was in fact allowed to speak. You simply rendered me speechless.
You said perhaps Mrs. Ghazala Khan did not speak because “she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say…had nothing to say.” She responded to your asinine assumption, in a beautiful letter penned to the Washington Post. And today, as a Muslim woman who stands with her, I too have much to say to you.
I want you to know that you are not the only one who has the impulse to hit people out of anger. When you spoke so disrespectfully about a mother who buried her son for this nation – her nation, MY nation – I wanted to slap you to smithereens. Had you been in my presence, I may have. For you are not the kind of person for whom Captain Humayun Khan sacrificed his life. He did not give all so that you could tear apart the fabric of this nation with the poison of hatred. He did not die simply to have you render his death in vain.
I want you to know that Muslim women like Mrs. Khan do not derive their allowances or disallowances from man. We do not seek permission from our husbands, brothers, fathers to choose our paths in life. We do not ask them for the right to earn a living, to own property, to cover or not cover our heads, to marry or divorce, to decide, to think, to speak. Because you see, Mr. Trump, those allowances are not man’s to give. They are God’s, and God’s alone.
I too, like Mr. Khan, have a copy of the United States Constitution on my bookshelf, next to my Quran. I have read it, learned it, analyzed it, written about it. And I want you to know that as a Muslim woman with the God-given right to speak, affirmed by the First Amendment of that Constitution, I will not allow you to hijack my religion.
I want you to know that Muslim men and women are some of the most productive figures and contributors to the good of society in all of history. They are today’s lawyers, social workers, athletes, blue collar laborers, political activists, physicians such as myself who have given all to careers meant to benefit others. They are the mathematicians, scientists, travelers, writers, the historical giants upon whose shoulders you stand – and still, you cannot see beyond your own inaccurate, sad dystopia.
I want you to know that I wish you had gone to medical school. The reality is, Mr. Trump, that despite what I know and think and believe about you, if you walked into my hospital, my clinic, my emergency room, I would put aside every fact, thought, and belief and treat you the same as any other suffering human being and do everything in my power to relieve your pain. I wish you had gone to medical school, where the values my parents taught me were affirmed – simply, that every life is equally precious. That when you cut a person open, they all look the same from the inside. I wish you could spend one day with me and see that cancer, infection, dementia do not look at color before choosing their victims. I wish you could see that the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands of my patients who die are not less devastated at the passing of their loved ones if they are Muslim or black or speak broken English.
It is often said that people’s opinions of others are a reflection not of others but rather of their own character. And so I want you to know that when you question and insult people like Mr. and Mrs. Khan, I wonder about you. I wonder about your insecurities and the state of your confidence. I wonder about your wife – an immigrant who speaks the same broken English that you condemn on the lips of others who have contributed more than you could if you lived nine lifetimes. I wonder why she was not allowed into the spotlight of your campaign until the arrival of the Republican National Convention. I wonder why, when she finally managed to speak, the words she spoke were not even her own.
I want you to know that Ghazala Khan’s dignified, meaningful silence will forever ring louder than your wife’s stolen words.
You say that “Islam hates us.” In a way, you are right. Islam hates everything for which you stand. Islam hates bigotry, greed, and negligence of the poor. Islam hates oppression, which is why Syrians are fleeing to freedom as we speak. Islam hates vulgarity, torture, and unlawful punishment. Islam limits war and does not allow harm to come to the wives and children of our oppressors as you have suggested the United States should do in foreign lands.
You say we as a nation have a problem with “radical Islamic terrorism.” I want you to know we have a bigger problem with racism, sexism, chauvinism, and nepotism – you embody them all. I want you to know that your delusions have made it so that Muslim children are teased at school, Muslim women attacked in public for the way they look. It is because of you that our communities have devised escape plans, gotten our papers in order and our emergency items in one place in case we need to escape. It is because of you that so many of us are searching for a second home in case we are driven out of our native home. I have news for you: we are coming up short, because those of us who call this place home have no idea where to go.
Perhaps you could suggest a concentration camp you favor?
I want you to know that the position of the presidency is not a tyranny or kingship in which you are permitted to hire and fire people at your will, to run the nation like you would a TV show. I am eternally grateful to be a citizen of this country, because our Constitution’s checks and balances system was designed exactly for people like you – to stop you from destroying what has required so much to build.
Finally, I want you to know that while your goal may have been to disparage an Army veteran’s surviving family, to paint all Muslims with the brushstroke of disgrace, you have accomplished the exact opposite. Because of your words, a Muslim American soldier’s name that may have otherwise been lost among the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, has made headlines. Republican party leaders – your people – are standing with him, and against you. You say you can win this election. I want you to know, Donald Trump, that while decent people live, breathe, and vote, your bigotry will never triumph. If you think you can exploit the unreasonable fears of a few close-minded folks for your own agenda, I want you to know that you are very, very wrong. There is far more to this nation than meets your short-sighted eye – far more compassion, far more goodness, far more empathy than you and your campaign would have us believe. I want you to know that the heroes don’t just win in the storybooks – they win in real life too. And the final chapters of this election are only just beginning.