CAIRO – Republican hopefuls’ anti-Muslim rhetoric has been casting its dark shadows on the life of American Muslim children, experiencing increasing fears amid fiery campaign rhetoric.
“I have kids coming in asking, ‘Is Trump going to exile us?'” Dr. Azmaira Maker, a San Diego psychologist, told Chicago Tribune.
According to therapists and community leaders, Muslim children throughout the US are experiencing fear amid fiery campaign rhetoric led by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Trump’s views on immigration have sparked controversy nationwide, especially his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US.
Seeing the news rallies and headlines, Maker said questions crop up everywhere, from her office to dinner parties.
An eighth-grader wanted to change his name, she recalled, calling it “a terrorist name.”
Another child, after seeing a campaign rally on television, asked if the family would be deported.
“It’s one thing as an adult. You hear all this hatred and maybe you can put it in context,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the national Council On American-Islamic Relations.
“But imagine what it’s doing to a young Muslim child.”
Hooper cited several anti-Muslim attacks, including teenage girls in Buffalo getting hit by eggs while wearing hijabs and a man in St. Louis who threatened to kill a family with four kids.
“Every day American Muslims are hearing this and experiencing this, and that is obviously being translated into the experience of their children,” he said.
A Super Tuesday poll by CAIR revealed Islamophobia is the No. 1 concern for Muslim voters.
“The level of fear and apprehension in the American Muslim community has never been higher,” Hooper said.
“Even after 9/11, it wasn’t at this level.”
Worried by the increase of these questions, parents were trying different methods to tackle their children’s fears.
Laith Saud, an Iraqi immigrant who grew up in Indiana during the Gulf War, teaches his daughter, who is 14, to exude confidence.
“We don’t try to evade this, but we don’t indulge in it either,” Saud, who lives in Hyde Park and teaches Religious Studies at DePaul University, said.
“We tackle that challenge with confidence and a sense of entitlement that we belong here. We’re not asking anybody to belong. We do belong.”
Maker said she thinks that honest conversation steeped in facts is the best way to tackle those fears.
“You want to explain in a very logical, factual way,” Maker, who has two sons, said.
She suggests something like, “There are people with different beliefs and values. This is part of our reality. This is part of our history.”
She also advised parents to buffer any conversation with a message of protection.
For example, “My job as a parent is to keep you safe and happy. We will do whatever it takes to keep you safe. If it means that we have to do something different, we will do something different. We are empowered. We have choices.”
“It’s really important to not generalize,” Maker said. If the word “terrorism” comes up, she said, parents can add to the conversation, “These kids who you go to school with are good people. They are not terrorists.”
Though Yasmina Blackburn, whose children are 12 and 14, lives in a tolerant community in the Schaumburg area, she faced a question from her daughter she didn’t know how to answer: “Mom, what if Trump does win the presidency?”
“It’s that fear in her face,” Blackburn said. “It’s a tough situation.”