12/14/2015 11:04 EST | Updated 12/14/2016 05:12 EST

What Donald Trump's Words Feel Like To Muslims Like Me

Sean Rayford via Getty Images
AIKEN, SC - DECEMBER 12, 2015: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at town hall meeting Saturday, December 12, 2015 in Aiken, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for February 20, 2016. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

You know how I feel about Donald Trump.

I'm a Muslim and an American, and you know how I feel about Trump.

I sat in the newsroom as he made his comments about banning Muslims from coming into the U.S. Someone referenced Hitler, it was slotted for a news page (in Toronto, a brief), and we all went about our work.

Meanwhile, I stared at the screen. Is it naïve to continue to feel disbelief when every outrageous statement is only incrementally more horrid than the one before?

I'm weary of trying to convince people of things. That Islamophobia is prevalent and experienced by people I love. Or that what's happening today has little to do with religion.

Instead, I'll tell you how it feels to hear Trump -- a front-running candidate to lead the world's most powerful country -- say he wants a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." How it feels to hear supporters say "send them all back."

You know how I feel, but I hope you'll still hear me say it.

It feels like anger. Anger at the lies Trump knowingly spews that leave Muslims as casualties in very real ways, at home and abroad. Anger at the blatantly false information that will shape how Americans --- and Canadians, too -- view their coworkers and their neighbours.

"I watched thousands and thousands of people cheering," he says, of reactions to 9/11 in New Jersey -- a claim supported by nothing and no one. Suggestions -- a Muslim registry, ID cards -- that push the boundaries of what can be thought and vocalized. And anger at the muted response. Calls here and there to remove his name from a building, snickers, headlines, to be sure. But visceral outrage? For words that so closely parallel Hitler for a population with still-living links? I have to turn to Facebook for that.

It feels like sadness. Like a friend, who was a refugee, hearing "ship them all back" from a Trump supporter. Would they send her family back, whatever the horror "back" represents? "I don't want them here," they say. "They need to go." Sadness because I suspect I have school friends who would now nod their heads, agreeing their families really would be safer this way.

"Trump is no lone loon -- he has support and admiration, and has other candidates seething that he's captured the hate vote."

With sadness I recall the humour and generosity of Syrians I met years ago -- the young hostel owners who shared their food, the man who talked about films as I bought cloth from him. Sad to hear them now compared to "rabid dogs" by another candidate, Ben Carson, and know they would have showered him with the same kindness.

It feels like fear. Not fear I'll be patching crescents onto my coats anytime soon, but I do fear for the soul of the country I grew up in. What are we capable of when Trump calls waterboarding "peanuts"? Fear that people selling "anti-jihad" rifles who distribute Qur'ans for target practice will move into the mainstream, acknowledged and accepted in this "anti-political-correctness" ethos.

It feels like worry. Like hearing friends select baby names based on their sounding not-too-Muslim-y. Worry for how refugees -- from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq -- will be received and what future awaits them when many in the world's wealthiest nation see them as ticking time bombs.

It feels like bafflement. How the very people who accept thousands of casualties from guns will take all measures to brace against a single death by "Muslim." Gun rights principles above all, but no principles that stand by people like me.

It feels like frustration. Hearing experts agree that inflammatory rhetoric leads to greater isolation and radicalization in dark and vulnerable corners at home, and emboldens groups like ISIS abroad, meaning that Trump and his compatriots help create the world they purport to combat. Frustration because high-profile comments gives people permission to express their nastiest inclinations. Frustration with the lack of transparency around mass killings when they are perpetrated by Muslims -- who always wind up dead, and who always inspire alternate stories, "conspiracy theories," difficult to ignore.

There is no need to reassure me Trump will not win the presidency, or that a registry system would never pass. It does not matter. Trump is no lone loon -- he has support and admiration, and has other candidates seething that he's captured the hate vote.

The statements that evoke these feelings are harmful, now. They have repercussions, now. And they change the America that I grew up in, now.

This article originally appeared inMetro


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