On Being Muslim In America: 'Go And Talk And Engage'

Feb 15, 2017

Jeff Siddiqui says he's never been one for silence. When he sees an argument or a political debate, he likes to chime in. And he's had plenty to talk about lately.

On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Siddiqui told us about the climate of fear for many Muslims in America.

 

After a presidential campaign that included anti-Muslim sentiment, and in the midst of the current legal wrangling over a now-suspended travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, we thought this would be a good time to hear from him again.

 

Interview Highlights

On growing up in Pakistan

“Life was really nice in those days. There was no threat, no danger, we could walk anywhere. We didn’t even know what the other person’s faith was. We didn’t care. We would celebrate Christmas just because it was fun. Why not? You’d get to go to a couple parties, say “Merry Christmas” to people. It was a completely different world than it is now.”

On the new president

"To be fair, the anti-Muslim hostilities and acts and declarations didn’t start with [President Donald] Trump. They were there even under Obama, except there it was better camouflaged. Today, Trump is putting to voice all the acts and thoughts that had been going on before. He’s putting it to voice in a very crude, brash, arrogant way."

On his own visibility

"This is the time, as far as I’m concerned, to go out there and engage with people, engage with the authorities and try to show them what reality is, as opposed to what reality has been fed to them. It’s our job to go and talk and engage and dispel myths. Not all of us take that job, because most of the people are scared."

On fighting discrimination

"What can the individual person do? Speak up. There will be no shortage of bad things happening which have Muslims involved in them, either innocent Muslims, or even guilty Muslims. But when somebody says this is because he’s a Muslim, speak up. With neighbors, with anybody else."