Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States alarmed local Muslims in Snoqualmie who were already on the defensive after their state Rep. Jay Rodne said Islam was incompatible with Western civilization and called Muslims “barbarians.”
Along the winding streets of their Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood, families share summer barbecues and block parties, the local elementary school’s winter bazaar and the weekly drives to their kids’ soccer practices and gymnastics lessons.
But familiar suburban routines have been interrupted for the small Muslim community here by the intense, anti-Islamic rhetoric exploding both locally and nationally. On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country because of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., and what his campaign said was the level of hatred toward Americans among large segments of the Muslim population.
The remarks came just two weeks after a Facebook post by state Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, saying “Islam is incompatible with western civilization.” In another, Rodne called Muslims “barbarians.”
For the Muslim families in Snoqualmie, the verbal attacks have felt personal, questioning both their loyalty and character, and also raising fears that their neighbors, whom they say have shown nothing but friendly acceptance, will instead treat them or their children with hostility or fear.
“I’m very disturbed, very apprehensive,” said Afshan Ijaz, a former petroleum engineer who moved here with her husband, a software engineer, in 2006. She’s originally from Pakistan. “When we hear this level of anti-Muslim hate we worry about the effect on our children and families. This kind of talk is harmful for everyone.”
The national director of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Trump’s comments sounded “more like the leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours.”
Trump didn’t back down from his call for a ban on all Muslims entering the country, but rather made the rounds of morning TV talk shows Tuesday repeating his views.
Locally, the Washington state chapter of CAIR denounced the speech and said anti-Muslim rhetoric sends a harmful message to millions of Muslim kids “that they are somehow less than equal and that the American dream is not for them,” said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director.
He said that across the county, CAIR has received, on average, a new report of an anti-Muslim hate crime every day for the past year. Many of those incidents end up targeting people who aren’t Muslim at all, he said, but people who are perceived to be Muslim — East Indians, Sikhs, Middle Easterners of all religions and even some Latinos.
In February, Bukhari said, someone wrote “Get Out” on a Hindu temple in Bothell. A nearby middle school also was tagged with graffiti that said “Muslims get out.” Both were accompanied by a swastika.
Women and girls who wear headscarves, a visible symbol of their Muslim faith, are particularly vulnerable to attacks, including taunts, bullying and discrimination, Bukhari said.
“The way we talk about Muslims has real consequences to the lives of women and families,” he said.
After Rep. Rodne’s remarks in November, the local CAIR office held a training session for Snoqualmie’s roughly 20 Muslim families, who were worried about the comments and wanted to know how to best respond.
Several wrote letters and invited Rodne to visit their small, storefront mosque on Center Street, and to meet with them so their state legislator could get to know their families and lives.
At Ijaz’s Snoqualmie Ridge home, there are drawings done by her young son, Adil, during his kindergarten class — one of pilgrim ships arriving in America and another of a tree covered with construction-paper autumn leaves. She said he sometimes insists on being called “Wilson,” as in Russell Wilson.
She said Rodne’s comments were particularly upsetting because he is supposed to represent the community and is looked up to as a leader.
“I am a devout Muslim,” said Ijaz. “I am also an American. I vote. I love my country. I believe in freedom of worship and expression. I volunteer at Hopelink, at the food bank, at tent city when it was here. My religion inspired that. I’d like to know which value he would find incompatible.”
Rodne hasn’t responded to his Muslim constituents’ requests for a meeting. A state legislative spokeswoman Monday said the representative has been inundated with requests for meetings of all kinds since his remarks were publicized and that, because of the holidays, he is not currently scheduling any.
A fellow elected official from the 5th District, Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, said Rodne’s anti-Muslim statements don’t reflect those of the majority of the district. He said that while there are many issues they agree on, Rodne’s view of Islam isn’t one of them.
“The Muslims in the district, they’re raising their kids, they’re an integral part of the community,” Mullet said.
A block away from Ijaz’s house, Hina Shakil, who holds an MBA from a Pakistani university, juggles caring for several neighborhood children and her own three kids in her home day care.
Shakil kept some of the materials from the training session with CAIR and quoted from them during an interview. The high number of Muslim-American women with college degrees. The number of American Muslims working in high-tech jobs in the region, as nurses, doctors and engineers. An estimated 20,000 serving in the U.S. military.
She and her husband were early members of the Snoqualmie Mosque. She said they wanted a place of worship closer than the large mosque in Redmond, a place to pray and to hold Quran classes for their children.
She said they invited their neighbors to the opening in 2011 so they could share their faith and hospitality. In exchange, some of her neighbors have invited her to their churches, to learn about their religions.
Her husband, Muhammad, came to the U.S. in 2000 and now works for Bellevue-based T-Mobile. They moved to Snoqualmie in 2006, a time when Snoqualmie Ridge wasn’t fully developed, when there wasn’t a library or gas station, when they still saw bears as they put out their garbage cans at night.
“We love it here,” he said. “We have so many friends here. Muslim, not, black, white. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Monday, in their living room, the television news repeatedly played Trump’s speech. It was the first time, Hina Shakil said, that her two older children, ages 11 and 9, had heard hate speech directed at Muslims.
“They were upset. They believe this is their country, that they are Americans. They wanted to know why he would say that about us,” she said.
She noted that equal treatment of all people is a fundamental value in the Islamic faith, as well as in the U.S. Constitution.
“Instead of creating an environment of unity, these politicians are fostering an environment of hatred and discrimination.”