Article Op-Ed

Laughter, Outrage, Disbelief: Muslims React to GOP Debate

Laughter, Outrage, Disbelief: Muslims React to GOP Debate

Author Shuaib Hanief & Edward Ahmed Mitchell by

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Islam occupied center stage at Tuesday night’s GOP presidential debate. From Donald Trump to Ted Cruz to Jeb Bush, the Republican presidential candidates expressed varying attitudes about American Muslims and their faith, ranging from tolerant to critical to outright hostile.

Donald Trump stood by his plan to ban Muslim immigrants and tourists from entering the United States. Rick Santorum said that Islam does not deserve the same First Amendment protections as other religions. Ted Cruz never missed an opportunity to say “radical Islamic terrorist.” He also declared Egypt’s (long non-violent) Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

What did American Muslims make of such comments? Here are reactions from members of Georgia’s Muslim community:

"The greatest irony within modern American politics is that the GOP has been hijacked by right-wing extremists in the same way that Islam has been hijacked ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other radical organizations. Rather than providing a reliable public voice for limited government, free-market capitalism, responsible fiscal policies, and other conservative values, the Republican presidential race has become a contest of which candidate can make the most outrageous statement and garner the most media attention. Republicanism today has most noticeably come to mean opposing Democrats and refusing to compromise at any expense. In the end, having no reasonable opposition to the Democratic party will only hurt the American people."

Kareem Al-Mulki is an Atlanta native, born and raised. He graduated from Emory University in May 2015, where he studied Political Science and Religions. Currently, Kareem is applying to medical school and working as a Project Manager for the Roswell Community Masjid.


The contrasts shown between candidates with regards to the balance between civil liberties and security in this debate were not only relevant, but refreshing because they provided a welcome level of substance. Beyond that, I found much of the conversation insulting. Candidates often said things with little logical coherence to try and provoke emotional reactions from the crowd. While this is an expected part of debate, the prominence of it in this specific debate was tasteless. The amount of hollow rhetoric, bandwagoning, oversimplification, and grandstanding left me feeling as if Mitt Romney would've been a breath of fresh intellectual air in comparison to this field, and pushed me to one of two conclusions: either the candidates believe the majority of Americans are unintelligent, or the majority of the candidates themselves are unintelligent.

Abdullah Budeir is a native Atlantan and current student at Bayyinah Institute’s Dream Program in Irving, Texas. He works as a writer for Bayyinah Institute and runs Wearish Clothing, an online apparel company. He plans to attend Emory University in the Fall of 2016.


As a person who once considered himself a Reagan conservative, I am sad to see the Republican Party continuing to head in the wrong direction. None of the candidates last night espoused the ideas of a freedom, American exceptional-ism and limited government. Instead we were given finger-pointing, xenophobia and fear mongering.

Talha Faruqi is an executive at Aventure Aviation and a member of the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta.


ISIS is celebrating their airtime. I don't know if I should blame the Republican Party or CNN for using all the GOP airtime to have adequate on ISIS. What a waste of an hour and half with absolutely no substantive solutions, but plenty of fist waving, Obama bashing, candidate-dissing rhetoric. Once again I fear the anti-Muslim backlash of this fear-spreading campaign, particularly for religious Muslims because often times people don't know the difference between a religious Muslim and a radicalized one.

Asma Elhuni is an activist and Political Science student at Georgia State University.


With all the lies and fabrications, it’s hard to have a thoughtful response to the GOP debate. Suffice it to say that by the end of the debate, I was seriously left to wonder, given all the Muslim and Islam bashing I voluntarily endured, whether I might actually be a masochist.

Mohammed I. Wahidi - proud American and a Muslim, middle aged tech executive who loves politics but is increasingly concerned about the America that my kids may inevitably inherit as a result of the slippery slope of intolerant rhetoric.


I went with the ignorance is bliss route and ignored the debate :)

Shahrukh Arif


The GOP candidates did what I expected and used fear as a tactic. They also used bravado through the threat of violence. These are time-honored tactics to rally support when a candidate or party has run out of genuine ideas.

Alan Howard (howarda) is an interfaith activst and an operation manager with a major international corporation in the Atlanta area.


Didn't watch it. Wanted to keep my sanity.

Aisha Yaqoob is a graduate student at the University of Georgia pursuing her Masters in Public Administration and Policy. She is an active member of the Atlanta Muslim community and is a contributing writer for



The candidates used phrases like "we are all so afraid," "paralyzed with fear," "too afraid to leave our homes" in relation to Muslims---but the 50,000 non-Muslim gun-related incidents and 317 non-Muslim-related mass shootings, (these stats are only for 2015 so far) are apparently not enough to scare us.  So hypocritical.  These words stir frenzy, but in the wrong direction. Now my own family is in double danger, being identifiable Muslims as well as being mere humans at risk because of the general violent, gun-toting population.

Jelena Naim, parent, educator, Atlanta resident.


The whole Republican debate strategy is an attempt to distract Americans from issues that should matter most to them. The debates, while disgustingly entertaining for some, sorely miss the mark in addressing fiscal and foreign policy, employment, education, law enforcement, gun legislation, race relations in the US and other matters that deserve our attention right now.

It's like they're telling us what should matter to us while addressing none of what actually does.

It's disgusting, really. Islam dominated the debate and no policies, legislation or substinative plans for the actual future of America were discussed. I'm trying to keep as PG as possible.

It's funny...weird, not haha, that NPR aired a segment on the typical demographics of Trump supporters. Most are Caucasian blue collar workers without a college degree. I thought to myself, “Thank God this isn’t reflective of the majority of Americans.” So he won't get the nomination. Ted or Jeb will.

But if the thoughts and rhetoric are so deep seeded in the party, then you still have the issue.

 YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad


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