Several hundred Muslim leaders signed an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump in which they “express serious concerns” regarding some of his campaign promises as well as his anti-Muslim picks for his administration.
“As our President-Elect, one of your duties is to ensure our collective safety and security,” the letter reads. “This includes protecting the First Amendment rights of all Americans to freely practice their faith, without fear, intimidation or reprisal.”
Signers of the letter include Husain Abdullah, a former NFL player for the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs; Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Khizr Khan, the Gold Star parent of Captain Humayun Khan who Trump publicly attacked over the summer. Professors, program directors, authors and business people also signed the letter, which currently has 303 signatures.
The letter also cites the recent documented spike in hate crimes and says, “we urge you to clearly and strongly condemn bigotry, hate crimes and bias-based school bullying directed at any American, including American Muslims. We call on you to make mutual respect and acceptance a hallmark of your presidency.”
Hate incidents have occurred in record numbers since Election Day, with a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calculating roughly seven times the weekly average according to the FBI’s 2015 hate crimes report. The FBI estimated that 38 anti-religious crimes targeting all faiths occurred every 10 days. During the 10-day period following the election, 49 anti-Muslim incidents alone occurred.
Leaders also said they are “deeply troubled” by some of Trump’s administration picks and advisors who have suggested proposals that would violate the rights of Muslim Americans.
“We call on you to appoint individuals who have a demonstrated commitment to serving and defending the Constitutional rights of all Americans,” the letter states, calling some of Trump’s appointments thus far “disturbing.” It also refers to “an advisor” who suggested internment camps Japanese Americans were held in during the World War II era serves as precedent for enforcing a registry of all Muslim Americans.
The Muslim leaders “urge [Trump] to reconsider and reject such candidates.”
The letter does not specifically state any names but appears to refer at least to Carl Higbie, a prominent Trump supporter and former spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC. In an interview on Fox’s “The Kelly File” Higbie suggested taking away immigrants’ constitutional rights and referred to the camps as “precedent.”
Higbie’s interview prompted a response from the Trump team, which said Trump “never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion” — despite Trump’s repeated calls for “a lot of systems” to track Muslim Americans.
Other key players in Trump’s administration have also made anti-Muslim comments and suggested anti-Muslim policies. Kris Kobach, secretary of state for Kansas and one of Trump’s advisors who is rumored to be in the running for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview that a policy for such a database was being discussed.
Reince Priebus, President-elect Donald Trump’s chief of staff, made numerous contradictory remarks regarding requiring Muslims to register in a national database, saying, “Look, I’m not going to rule out anything.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, earlier this year tweeted, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”
The letter from the Muslim leaders promises to hold Trump and his team accountable for guaranteeing the rights of all Americans:
“Just as with previous administrations, we will continue to engage all levels of our government to make America great. As engaged citizens, we also pledge to holding you and all elected officials accountable for upholding our Constitution and the equal protections it guarantees. We will raise our voices together with all Americans who share our concerns to protect these values.”
Engy Abdelkader, a senior fellow at Georgetown University and one of the people who drafted the letter, said to The Huffington Post, “It behooves President-elect Trump to recognize the impact of his words, let alone potential policies that single out Americans on account of their religion, race or ethnicity.”
According to the SPLC’s report, the leaders have reason to be concerned. While hate incidents have always occurred in the United States, “the targets of post-election hate incidents report that they are experiencing something quite new.”
Trump, meanwhile, claimed in an interview he was “surprised to hear” about the spike in hate incidents. Many reported incidents were directly related to the election, with many being at the hands of Trump supporters (and a significantly smaller amount targeting them). And while not all reported incidents bore Trump’s name specifically, the president-elect has no reason to be surprised they are occurring, according to the SPLC: “Both the harassment since the election and the energy on the radical right are the predictable results of the campaign that Trump waged for the presidency — a campaign marked by incendiary racial statements, the stoking of white racial resentment, and attacks on so-called ‘political correctness.'”