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American Muslims and the Politics of Division – New York Times

The debate “led to an internal moral dilemma,” said Dalia Mogahed, a former adviser to President Obama on faith issues, and now a research director at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. “Finally, here was someone with the moral authority to stand up and challenge Trump on his rhetoric. On the other hand, there was a point of view that we were glorifying military service — or condoning a war that was misguided and unjust.”

The charged argument, she said, mostly took place online, pointing to an old problem among the estimated 3.3 million Muslims in America. Many of them oppose the American foreign policies in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, yet they feel their ability to openly contest those policies is compromised by politicians and media coverage that equates Islam with terrorism, and a fear they will be accused of being fifth columnists.

The debate is complicated by recent extremist violence inside the United States, such as the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., by a Muslim couple who claimed to fight for the Islamic State, or the deadly assault on an Orlando, Fla., nightclub by Omar Mateen, the son of an Afghan immigrant.

“It’s all become very politicized,” said Hafsa Kanjwal, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan. “We have Humayan Khan as the ‘good Muslim’ at one end, and Omar Mateen as the ‘bad Muslim’ at the other end. Islam is being played up in both instances.”

For others, though, it is a matter of pragmatic politics at time when fringe ideas have soaked into the mainstream. As well as calling for Muslim migrants to be barred from entering the United States, Mr. Trump has proposed shutting down certain mosques, issuing special ID cards to Muslims and creating a federal database to track and monitor all Muslim residents.

Some of those ideas appeal to voters, and has appeared to incite violence against Muslims: A recent report by Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding found that the campaign has coincided with a rise in anti-Muslim violence across the country, including attacks on people and mosques.

Mostly, though, the political tensions are percolating into daily life through smaller aggressions, a dozen Muslims from across America said in interviews: casual comments from colleagues, children being bullied at school or hostile stares directed at women who wear head scarves. In April, an Iraqi student was removed from a flight in California after another passenger became alarmed after hearing him speaking in Arabic.

Hassan Minhaj, a comedian on “The Daily Show,” said that the Republican convention, which he attended, “felt like a racist Comic-Con.” But, he added in an interview, “it was only a small minority who were screaming all these terrifying things. The majority were just ignorant — they didn’t know any better.”

Paradoxically, the darkening political clouds come at a time when Muslim voices in America are more prominent, sometimes away from the straitjacketed debate on terrorism. Muslim characters in popular culture, such as television shows, are less stereotyped. Muslim leaders, even those critical of American foreign policy, flocked in June to a Ramadan dinner hosted by President Obama at the White House.

One lonely Muslim voice of late, however, has been that of Sajid Tarar — one of the few Muslims to speak out in Mr. Trump’s defense.

In an interview, Mr. Tarar, who was born in Pakistan, said he had received voluminous hate mail from other Muslims which accused him of being a traitor. He echoed Mr. Trump’s talking points about the dangers of “political correctness” and Syrian refugees.

“Why are they running from their country to come here?” he said. “Why don’t they go to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon? Europe is already burning.”

He said that his organization, American Muslims for Trump, had 500 members.

“I’m part of angry America,” Mr. Tarar said, reeling off a list of Hillary Clinton’s failings. “As Muslims, we have to show that not all of us are terrorists — only a certain percentage are troublemakers.”

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