They Fled Violence in Iraq Only to Find It in the United States
They arrived here with hope. Now, the mother is so afraid that she hates to leave the house or let her children out to play.
I can’t imagine the joy that this Iraqi family felt when they were told in 2016 that they could finally move from war-torn Iraq to the United States of America to make a new life. The family was finally escaping the daily threat of sectarian violence and religious persecution. They could now dream of a better life for not just themselves but for their young children. This family truly embodied America’s promise to welcome the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Now two and half years later, I can’t imagine the heartache this family is feeling as they realize that under Donald Trump, the United States of America is not the nation they had been promised. Instead it's now Trump’s America, a nation where this family of eight with children ranging from pre-school to 16 find themselves increasingly being subjected to taunts, harassment, and even hate crimes simply because they are Muslim immigrants.
As the father stated at a press conference earlier this week, “It started seven months ago with people knocking on our doors and running away.” (The family and their advocates have asked the media to not reveal the family’s name for fear of even more attacks.) However, the harassment escalated during Ramadan in May. As the father explained, “They starting cussing my [wife] out when they saw her on the streets.”
Over the next few weeks their house in the Baltimore suburbs was pelted with eggs. A liquor bottle was left in their yard that was seen by the family as akin to the anti-Muslim bigots who throw bacon at mosques. And then it escalated when about a week ago someone threw a battery and a piece of metal through the window of a bedroom while their children were in the room—as glass went flying, the kids fled screaming. A car was heard speeding away as the family huddled in fear.
At this point, the mother, who wears a hijab (the simple headscarves), is so fearful that she won’t leave the house or allow her children out to play. The father has taken off from work to remain home to protect his family.
As Zainab Chaudry from the Maryland Chapter of the Council on American Islam Relations explained, the family is so scared that each night before they go to bed they prop a sofa up in front of their door for protection.
Chaudry, along with other local Muslim groups including the Muslim Social Services Agency, organized the press conference this week to bring attention to the family’s situation as well as to urge the local police to act more vigilantly in pursuing this case. Chaudry noted that since the media coverage, the police have been more responsive.
Sadly, in the time of Trump, this is new normal, as we have seen a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in both 2016 and 2017. True, there were anti-Muslim hate crimes before Trump first ran for office. But once Trump began his jihad against Muslims from calling for a “total and complete” Muslim ban to declaring “Islam hates us” and more, the bigots were emboldened to attack Muslim Americans.
Consequently, in 2016, there were more anti-Muslim hate than crimes than in the year after the 9/11 attacks. Think about that for a moment: There were more anti-Muslim hate crimes on U.S. soil while Trump was spewing hateful rhetoric of Muslims than after a terrorist attack on U.S. soil by Muslims that left nearly 3,000 Americans dead.
In fact a recent study by the U.K.’s University of Warwick found that Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets were a reliable predictor of hate crimes against Muslims during the presidential campaign and in the months following his election. As the researchers noted, “Trump’s Muslim tweets alone predict more than 20% of the variation in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the same week.”
What a contrast to what we see after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 that left three dead and 264 wounded. You might have predicted that after this spectacle of a terror attack caused by two Muslim extremists, there would’ve been a horrible backlash in terms of hate crimes to the American Muslim community. But it didn’t happen as the media reported at that time and as Muslim activists like Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR confirmed. Why? Several reasons but one big one was that there was no Trump to gin up fears of all Muslims as he did after the San Bernardino attack in 2015.
But now we have a president who made demonizing Muslims a cornerstone of his campaign. And when you add to that Trump’s drumbeat of ginning up fears that immigrants are going to “infest” America as he put it, there’s no surprise why a Muslim immigrant family would be subject to hate crimes. The bigots know that the person in the White House hates these very same people. The people carrying out these hate crimes simply believe they are taking Trump’s rhetoric to its next logical step.
Chaudry explained that CAIR and the other local groups are now looking to find the family a new place to live in the country for them to start over. So here we are in 2018 with an Iraqi refugee family fleeing Maryland—originally settled by Catholics in the name of religious freedom!—to escape religious persecution and sectarian violence. They have become refugees once again—this time, though, not because of extremists in the Middle East but because of extremists right here in the United States. This is truly Trump’s America.