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Trump's Victory Has Muslim-Americans Feeling Anxious


Donald Trump's victory has Muslim-Americans feeling anxious. Trump said he would ban Muslim immigration to the U.S. during his campaign. Then he shifted that position a bit to what he called extreme vetting. Here with us now is Ahmed Rehab. He's executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Welcome to the program.

AHMED REHAB: Thank you very much for having me.

MONTAGNE: And what were you thinking about last night when it became clear that Donald Trump was headed for victory?

REHAB: You know, the whole thing was absolutely surreal. It felt like a really bad dream, a nightmare. You know, I was just watching the screen, and I just couldn't believe myself that this was actually happening and not just as a Muslim, but as an American. Last night, as of Florida, I got this, you know, feeling in the pit of my stomach that this could actually happen. And then Ohio went to Trump, and I started to brace myself and other members of my community for what was to come.

MONTAGNE: And his victory speech last night, Donald Trump came out and said he'd be president for all Americans. I mean, the tone was conciliatory. Did that reassure you?

REHAB: It was all so unbelievable. It was conciliatory, but it was also, in my opinion, superficial and fake. It didn't sound like Donald Trump speaking through his heart. It sounds like Donald Trump with somebody's hand over his mouth telling him that you need to say this at this moment in time. And there's no guarantee for me that someone like him, who, when they speak their mind, when they speak their heart, are an absolute disaster, won't resurface again in the exact same way he had during the campaigns - this unhinged maniac. And I have to say, I mean, just going to sleep last night after watching the whole, you know, charade, I thought to myself, oh, you know, this is not just an American event, but a global event. And I could just hear the laughter around the world. Nothing pained me more than that. I felt like, for the first time, America is a Third World country.

MONTAGNE: What are your next steps, as a leader in - in, you could say, the Muslim-American community?

REHAB: Well, I'm going to allow myself some space and some time to mourn. This is a mournful event. I may do so publicly to a degree, but I don't want to spend too much time doing that because at the end of the day, I have a constituency that looks to my leadership. And as soon as that is done, which will be soon, I think I'm going to get right back up and fight back and stand up for my beliefs, for America, for the very foundations and its promise and, you know, civil rights, etc. - and to realize and to insist that we are not alone, that we are not isolated, that this is not about Trump versus Muslims. This is about Trump versus the spirit of America that many beyond - above and beyond Muslims share with us and not just Latinos and not just African-Americans and not just the disabled and not just women, but people of all backgrounds, including white, Christian Americans who just refuse this culture that Trump and others are insisting on bringing to the fore.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

REHAB: It is an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Ahmed Rehab is the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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