Why I had to stand up to Trump
CNN: By Rose Hamid
Editor’s note: Rose Hamid is the American Muslim woman who stood in silent protest at the Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She was born in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte North Carolina. She’s been a flight attendant for 30 years, is married and has three grown children. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author.
(CNN)I went to the Donald Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on January 8 with a group of diverse folks to stand in silent protest against hate-speech in general and Islamophobia in particular.
Trump proposes banning Muslims from entering the United States and putting Muslims in a database where their movements would be monitored. Trump has said that “large segments” of Muslims in the world hate Americans. As an American, I’ve seen how hate of “the other” can divide our country and incite violence against “the other.”
As a Muslim woman who wears hijab, I knew I would be very visible and I felt an obligation to try to make connections with Trump supporters, most of whom, I assumed, had never met a Muslim. I believed that if personal connections were made, fear and hate would subside. I was right — the Trump supporters I interacted with were very welcoming.
When Marty Rosenbluth (the Jewish man who designed the “Go Yellow against Hate” yellow star/badge) and I stood in silent protest, the police asked us to leave, and we cooperated. Others in the group who donned the yellow badge (some silent, some not), were also ushered out.
We expected to be asked to leave. But I was surprised at how quickly the crowd became so hateful. People who I’d connected with also seemed surprised by the crowd’s reaction. One woman even took my hand and said “I’m so sorry.” However, the rest of the crowd, stirred by the fear and hate-speech Trump was spewing, took on a mob mentality and shouted hateful things to my face.
One man asked me if I had a bomb, to which I smiled and replied, “No, do you?” Another got in my face and said “Boo, get out of here, we don’t want your kind here,” to which I smiled again and said “You don’t know me, why would you say something like that?” I tried to speak to and connect with the people yelling at me in an effort to break their “trance” and have them see me as a person, but their eyes seemed glazed over.
I was astonished by the international media attention I’ve received since the rally. I felt a great responsibility to represent my faith and my country with clarity and dignity. The clip of me being escorted out, while people yelled and jeered at me, was seen around the world. It made America look like a country of intolerant bigoted racists.
I’ve had to explain to the foreign press that the video clips do not represent the majority of Americans or American ideals. The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of religion, which means I can be a better Muslim in America than in any other so-called Muslim country. I have the freedom to follow the faith of my choosing; there is no national religion. The First Amendment also protects freedom of speech, which means the law allows me to protest.
On the other hand, hate speech falls into a different category. When someone repeatedly tells folks that “the other” hates them, folks develop a fear of “the other,” which quickly turns to hate, which can incite violence. I’ve had some of that hate thrown my way. There is a well-funded, but small group of Islamophobes, who work diligently at spreading misinformation and lies about Islam and Muslims, including some outrageous claims about me.
However, the overwhelming majority of my experience has been a humbling outpouring of love and support from people around the world, which proves my theory that the majority of people are decent and kind.
The most encouraging messages I’ve received were from people who were inspired to get out of their comfort zone and stand for something they believed in. I challenge supporters of Trump, or any candidate who tries to marginalize any group, to let them know when you don’t agree with certain policies they’re proposing, or language they’re using, by standing in silent protest. If folks are afraid to stand up due to fear of the crowd’s reaction, what does that say about the future of America?