QUEENS – As American Muslims go to polling stations today, November 8, many Muslim residents in Queens, New York, are expressing a palpable sense of tension and fear what the future may hold for them under Donald Trump presidency should the Republican candidate emerge victorious at the polls.
“I’m scared of him to be honest. The way he talks about people really frightens me. If you ask 10 people in the street they’ll tell you the same thing. People here are scared of Donald Trump,” 24-year-old grocery store employee Lincoln Alam, who says he’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton, told France 24.
“But that’s normal – when someone threatens your freedom, you don’t like it.”
During the past months, Donald Trump has encouraged a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, from a complete ban of Muslims to “extreme vetting”.
He has also claimed American Muslims are helping to shelter terrorists and said he wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
The rhetoric has made a surge in anti-Muslim attacks.
In a 2015 hate crime statistics report, 16.1 percent of 1,140 religious hate crime victims were Muslim, up from previous years, despite the fact that overall hate crime numbers among other religious groups were declining, the FBI said.
Hate crimes culminated last August when Queens local imam Alauddin Akonjee and his assistant Thara Miah were gunned down on the streets in an execution-style killing.
On his way to prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque, the same mosque where Akonjee and Miah worked and just two blocks away from where they were murdered, 56-year-old Bazlur Rahman says the election has been “extremely tough” for the neighborhood’s Muslim population.
“Everyone is very concerned about this election, everyone is talking about it,” he says. “People think Trump is targeting Muslims. They are scared.”
He expects the vast majority of the area’s Muslims will vote for Clinton.
“They will feel more safe if she wins,” he said.
“This country is for everybody. You can’t separate people because they are of a different race or religion.”
The rising climate of hate was spreading fears, with many Muslims becoming reluctant to share their views on the vote publicly.
“No comment,” says 48-year-old Mohammed Uddin, who moved to the US from Bangladesh in 1991, when asked about his views on Trump.
Though he does divulge that he will be voting for Clinton, he believes that “both candidates are well-qualified” and that there are “good and bad things about both”.
Uddin does not expect Trump to go through with his ban on Muslim immigrants, if he wins.
“It’s against the constitution,” he says.
“His running mate even said so during the debate.” Then he adds with a nervous laugh: “But if things do get bad I can always go back to Bangladesh.”
Misba Abdin, the president the local Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services organization, is helping to host a litter-picking event with children from the neighborhood.
“I believe in right and in good people, but I want to keep it to myself who I’m going to vote for,” he said.
While a passing Friend said jokingly that Abdin is voting for Trump, he was coy to share his political views.
“Voting is something that you do in a dark room by yourself,” he said.
“I definitely don’t like Trump, but I don’t really like Hillary either. There are good and bad things about both.”
“It’s all just politics,” he added. “But Trump said specifically that he was talking only about radical Muslims and I’m against that, too.”
However, he had a message to Trump that his own ascendants came to the USA from a faraway land to enjoy the freedoms the country offers.
“This is a nation of immigrants,” he said.
“Trump is an immigrant too even if he was born here. He says this is the land of the free, but if there is freedom for everyone that has to include immigrants, too.”