Coming from peace: An open letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

My name is Rais Bhuiyan. I am an American Muslim and survivor of a violent post 9/11 hate crime. I deplore the acts of violence and hatred that are wrongly performed in the name of my religion, they do not represent me or my beliefs, and they do not reflect the lessons taught in the Qur’an. I also denounce all manifestations of hateful acts and rhetoric.

While I respect you for obtaining the GOP nomination for President, as such a leader, I urge you to learn about and get to know the minorities and immigrants who call the United States home. Like all of humanity, American Muslims are an integral part of our society. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, first responders and firefighters, business owners, police officers, and peace activists, like me. Over 10,000 American Muslims currently serve in the U.S. military and are ready to put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and liberties. American Muslims, like their fellow citizens, are patriotic Americans, who have been living and shaping the landscape of this country for centuries. Ten to 30% of the people brought here as slaves were Muslims who fought during the Civil War, WWII, and the Vietnam War. Many gave (and continue to give) their lives to protect your freedom, liberty, and happiness, contributing to building this great country. It not only devastates American Muslims like me when our country’s leaders question our allegiance, it sends an extraordinarily distressing message worldwide. You have a unique position in American society, people take your words seriously, they listen to and believe you.

Your vitriolic, hate-filled rhetoric and ignorance is not only causing others to lose their civil and human rights and dignity, but in some cases, also inciting such abhorrence and violence that innocent people are losing their lives. Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished rights we enjoy, but was not fought for to be used as a blank check to ruin other peoples’ freedom. It is imperative that you properly represent all Americans, including Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans and immigrants — voters, citizens, professionals, family members and loyal Americans. A great leader represents everyone, even those who do not support him. As citizens of this nation, we should be doing things to strengthen and empower one another, not discouraging or demonizing some among us, and not casting doubt upon their loyalties and love for our country.

I have spent my life preaching the value of radical forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and acceptance ever since I was shot in the face ten days after 9/11 by an American espousing values similar to the ones you voiced. I know how tempting it was to BLAME the whites, the Christians, or all the Americans’ because of the white supremacist who shot me in the face and killed two innocent South Asians and voluntarily told the media, after his arrest, that what he did, most Americans wanted to do, but they did not have the guts to do it. He BLAMED me and “my kind” for 9/11.  He thought that America was no place for Muslims until I started a campaign to save him from death row. Unfortunately, he was ultimately executed, but not before he called me “brother” and he said that he loved me. His last message was, “Hate has to stop, it causes a lifetime of pain”.

America needs to understand, to repair, and to heal.  America does deserve better.  We deserve better treatment from ourselves.  We deserve a country that lives up to its original creed – that ALL men (and women) are created equal.  At a time when most Americans were uninformed, misinformed, or simply afraid of Islam, Thomas Jefferson imagined Muslims as future citizens of his new nation. His engagement with the faith began with the purchase of a Qur’an eleven years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. “Neither Pagan nor Mahamedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.”
 — Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke, 1776

Your recent comments against Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, and immigrants are spreading fear, hate, and causing destruction in our society, and it’s not healthy. Your recent speech reminds me of the famous quote of Abraham Lincoln – “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”  

I urge you to stop spreading fear and hate, putting Americans against one another. Instead, just imagine each time someone gets shot or killed, faces hate or prejudice that it is YOU or one of your loved ones. For God sake, please have some empathy and compassion for those who go through each and every day wondering if they might be next, terrified to leave their homes, unable to practice their basic rights as citizens and as human beings. Please step up and make a positive impact today. History will remember you for what you did for humanity. 

I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you, as one American Muslim, to talk with you further about the contributions that American Muslims can make to improving our national security and helping this nation to be the best it can be. Muslims have value, Mr. Trump, and all Muslims are not violent. I would like to demonstrate these truths to you. 

Sincerely,

Rais Bhuiyan
Founder & President
World Without Hate

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