WASHINGTON/NEWARK, NJ —
Muslims in the U.S. and around the world have condemned as un-American a proposal by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
On Monday, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Dr. Ahmad Jaber, president of the Arab-American Association of New York and Dawood Mosque, on Tuesday called Trump’s rhetoric “un-American” and said it was outrageous that “bashing Muslims and Islam” had become a political norm.
“Action on this narrative is not only a violation of human rights but also a violation of our constitution,” said Jaber. “Supporters of Donald Trump must understand that such behavior is unethical, un-American and quite frankly unacceptable. The people must not accept such behavior and hold him responsible.”
‘Divisive, outlandish, hateful’
Across the Hudson River, Mustafa El-Amin, an imam and Muslim leader in Newark, New Jersey, described Trump’s remarks as “divisive, outlandish and hateful.”
He said it was worth reminding all citizens that the Muslim community plays an integral role in American society.
“Muslims are in every aspect of American life: education, politics, business, government, law enforcement, not to mention the fact that many Muslims are in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line to defend our country,” he said.
Trump says his proposal is designed to keep America safe from “large segments” of the Muslim population that he says hate Americans. El-Amin called this dangerous.
“You don’t know the mindset of people that’s in that audience and that’s hearing this rhetoric from Donald Trump,” he said.
El-Amin, who grew up in Newark, said his community was concerned, as all Americans “should be,” about the possibility of a violent backlash against Muslims.
Members of his masjid, or mosque, said part of the problem is that many Americans don’t know what Islam is about.
“They’ve heard about it from a distance, but I would say a lot of them never came into a masjid to see what does Islam teach,” said Abdus-Saboor Shakir-Ullah, a Muslim U.S. citizen and resident of New Jersey.
Ahmed Kader, originally from Egypt, said Islam treats people as one community — “rich, poor, black, white, well-to-do and downtrodden."
“When there is education, there is more common sense,” Kader said. “Because education here is more than a lot of other places, I see more common sense, and I think only a little minority of Americans will be deceived by thinking, ‘Oh, Islam is terrorism. Muslims are terrorists.’ ”
Around the world Tuesday, Muslims said Trump’s stance was not representative of the America they knew. Some found it worrying.
In Bangladesh, people expressed fear that Trump’s comments might make Islamic relations with the West more complicated.
“We are worried about Trump’s comments. We are also worried about our relatives who live in the U.S.,” Mohammad Musa, a resident, told VOA from Dhaka, the capital.
“Trump’s statement is not compatible with U.S. values and ideology. These kinds of comments create fear amongst us,” Shahadat Husain, a resident from Khulna, told VOA's Bangla service.
Tahir Ashrafi, president of Ulema Council, a group for Pakistan’s Muslim clerics, said Trump’s comments would only incite hate and violence. "If some Muslim leader says there is a war between Christians and Muslims, we condemn him. So why should we not condemn an American if he says that?" he told Reuters.
In Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said he would not comment on an election campaign in another country, but he affirmed Indonesia’s position on terrorism.
“Acts of terror do not have any relation with any religion or country or race," Nasir told Reuters.
Americans won’t go for it
Some Muslim leaders believe the American people will not support Trump’s ban.
“I think the people of America will not vote for such a person,” Kamal Nasar Osoli, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament, told VOA’s Afghan service. “He [Trump] is a sick man.”
Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpaw, a senator and former minister of the interior in Pakistan, agreed that Americans would not follow Trump’s lead.
“Perhaps with a narrow thought, [Trump] thinks that this will increase sympathy for himself in America. But he’s wrong because [American] people lean toward religious harmony,” he told VOA's Urdu service.
“Such hostile attitude towards Islam and Muslims will increase tension within American society, of which Muslims represent around 8 million peaceful and loyal American citizens,” Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, a prominent Islamic law foundation, said in a statement.
Talat Chaudhry, a member of parliament from the ruling Muslim League in Pakistan, said Trump’s comments tarnished America’s image abroad.
"People like to live there, and people idealize their [American] system, so I think [what Trump does] is against their own politics and their image,” he told VOA.
Reacting with humor
Din Syamsuddin, head of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, said Trump’s comments were a joke.
"It is laughable that there is a person in this modern, globalized era who is so narrow-minded as to ban some people from entering America," he said.
One Twitter user from Saudi Arabia tweeted that “in that case, we will lay off the Americans who work for Aramco and other oil companies here,” referring to the Americans who work in the oil sector in the Muslim kingdom.
Another anonymous tweet from Saudi Arabia anticipated that Trump “would soon call for deporting all American Muslims.”
On his Twitter account, famous Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef said, “I didn’t know that Donald Trump was fluent in Nazi.”