Article Op-Ed

Atlanta's Muslim Kids Respond to Trump

Atlanta's Muslim Kids Respond to Trump

Author Alaa Elassar by

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When you start teaching, in the beginning, you don’t see it as a responsibility. You give students lessons. You push them to study and do homework and learn to focus. But what happens when you let them speak?

Months ago, I began teaching intense Qur’anic translation classes for middle school children at the Roswell Community Masjid. It was a job I undertook as a personal duty. I studied the lessons and prepared myself to teach.

In the middle of my first semester as a young, barely official teacher, students had opened up about issues beyond memorizing meanings and interpreting stories. However, one topic should not have been the concern of any 11 year old student’s life: racism and Islamophobia.

It started when they began hearing the news. Donald Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric made headlines and, all of the sudden, Islamophobia became everyone’s problem. Even 11 year old students who had not yet tasted the feeling of religion and the peace it could bring became aware of Trump’s threats to take our faith away.

Soon, we transitioned from learning words of Qur’anic wisdom to understanding how to respond to teachers asking about headscarves. This further escalated to questions about bullying and how to react when being accused of supporting terrorism.

Soon enough, the question arose, “how would a child respond to the abominable ignorance of Donald Trump?” What would a child, one raised among women in delicate headscarves and the beauty of Qur’anic Arabic, respond to the hateful rhetoric of a man whose aspirations for America are immigration bans and racist ideals?

In an eager and honest attempt to visualize the words of terror many Muslim children experience from such a young age, some of my own students wrote in retaliation to Trump’s abhorrent speeches:

Ali, age 10, responds first: “Dear Mr Trump. First thing: get a new haircut. Second of all: I recently heard your opinion that all Muslims are evil. However, me and many others disagree. I came to America from Kuwait in 2010 and have grown up in Muslim surroundings since 2014. You may assume things because of ISIS, but the thing is, while they claim to be ‘true Muslims,’ we have been following a totally different religion for centuries now. We already have wars in Palestine and Syria, and if we convince all Americans to think the way you encourage them to, the world will believe you. In school, we are studying World War II. We learned how Hitler planned a genocide on all Jews. What America is going through is frighteningly similar. The world’s fate is depending on you, you pick what you will do with it.”

Fatimah, age 12, says: “I am a Muslim and I’m proud of it. Muslims are tied together like a band - we keep positive attitudes and lead each other together. Maybe someday Mr. Trump will be able to understand our religion of joy and peace and will cease his words of hatred.”

Raeyan, also age 11: “First thing I would like to bring up, Mr. Trump, is your recent statement on which you proposed the banning of all Muslims from coming into this country...I would like you to know I'm an American citizen and yes, I am Muslim. Everyone comes from a certain country, religion or race. And almost everyone's religion, race and background has someone who has done something wrong. So should I be blamed for something I didn't even do? Absolutely not.”

And in the final witty words of Youssef, age 10: “Dear Trump: we’re trying to keep this simple and clear. It’s impossible to only begin with your anti-Muslim statements and your ignorant speeches. Like I said, I’m going to keep it simple. We each have a life, just make yours a good one.”

Throughout his history, Donald Trump has taken advantage of non-English speaking immigrants and second class citizens who have been forced to battle every regime which has taken advantage of them. But this time, he will be tackling first generation Americans who speak his language and live his culture, sometimes even better than he does.

There’s one lesson to learn from the student’s letters: this new generation is young, but ready. In middle school, they already stand united, strong and willing to fight back.

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