Aref Assaf, Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK
I am mad. President Trump once again stokes anti-Muslim sentiments. On Saturday, April 18, he maliciously retweeted anti-Muslim bigot Paul Sperry’s comments implying favoritism toward American Muslims compared to our fellow Christians. This tweet implied that unlike other faiths, the police would turn a blind eye to mosques as they open for Ramadan and break the social distancing rules in place. Our mosques in New Jersey and elsewhere — like all other places of worship — have been closed since the state of emergency has been declared and social-distancing rules took effect. Like all other faiths, we have resorted to having our prayers at home and online.
Our holiest month of Ramadan begins this Friday, and it is insulting and frustrating to approach such a special time for many Muslims with this type of anti-Muslim sentiment. All Americans, irrespective of their faiths have suffered in one way or another by the COVID-19 crisis. While other leaders have used this as a time to reach out to the masses, our president has elected to use his platform to amplify the hateful words of a known bigot. The president is yet again instilling anti-Muslim rhetoric into the public, rather than using this time to call for unity.
The president could not be more wrong when he broadcasts the message that American Muslims are not being harmed by the current crisis, or that we would ignore the rules in place and endanger ourselves and those around us. As a community, we are hurting as much as anyone else. We are working the frontline jobs side by side with others. We are in every sector of jobs from health care professionals to foodservice. We have the same concerns over rent and other expenses. We are praying and mourning our loved ones.
Many mosques and Muslim-owned businesses have been at the forefront of distributing aid and supplies to affected communities. We are a part of the American fabric that makes us so unique and sadly, the president is trying to rip that apart.
Dr. Aref Assaf is president of the American Arab Forum and lives in Paterson.