LOS ANGELES – In a backdrop of rising Muslim fears, President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday night came to reaffirm fears of the religious community, as he continued to paint a monolithic picture of Islam.
“If you want to know what American Muslims are about, talk to an American Muslim. … They are everywhere. … If you don’t know where to find them, call us and we will help you to find them,” said Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a Los Angeles-based organization that serves to amplify Muslim American voices around the country, Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday, March 1.
Shortly after President Trump finished his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening, Al-Maryati placed his laptop on his dining room table and began a Facebook live-video feed, discussing Trump’s moderate tone and whether it was divisive.
During Al-Marayati’s 21-minute video, which reached 5,000 people, he answered people’s questions about Islam.
Al-Marayati is one of Muslim Americans who sat in front of their television sets on Tuesday night, eager to learn how Trump’s policies towards immigrants and minorities might affect their place in America.
Though Trump’s changed persona and air of seriousness surprised Al-Marayati, he was angered by his insistence on his hard-line view on Islam and terrorism.
“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists,” he said.
“We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said, to loud cheers from some lawmakers.
But, what struck Al-Marayati most about Trump’s speech was what the president didn’t say.
“I’m glad Trump condemned anti-Semitism. He didn’t acknowledge attacks on Muslims though nor did he talk about white extremism. There were many gaps in his logic,” he said.
Dr. Sadegh Namazikha, founder and president of the Iman Cultural Center in Culver City, did not see a difference between Tuesday’s speech and Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims.
“I was trying to hear something new and was looking for something different, but I couldn’t find it. I did notice that his tone was changed,” Namazikha said
He was upset when Trump claimed that “the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offense since 9/11 came here from outside of our country,” saying that none of 9/11 attackers came from any of the seven states targeted in Trump’s executive order.
Meanwhile, Al-Marayati said that he’s noticed more people vocalizing support for the Muslim American community.
“Trump, in a strange way, forced people to discuss Islam. Now we are able to show who we are: doctors, teachers, businessman, lawyers,” he said.