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Muslims Won't Be A Passing Victim In Trump's Administration, Nashashibi Says

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's been a lot of talk in the past year about hate crimes against minority groups. As we begin 2017, we wanted to hear how it feels to be a member of one of those groups being targeted right now, Muslim Americans. Rami Nashashibi leads a Chicago nonprofit called the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. When we reached out to him, in our conversation he brought up the San Bernardino shooting in December of 2015 when a Muslim couple shot and killed 14 people. Nashashibi told me a story about how that attack affected him from a distance. He said shortly after the shooting he was in a park on the south side of Chicago with his kids.

RAMI NASHASHIBI: As I typically always do with my children, when it comes time for one of the prayer times, I'll pray publicly. And I stood watching them play and became mindful of a couple of cars that were driving up. There was a moment where I paused, quite frankly, about whether or not this was the smartest thing to do. And one of my daughters caught me in that moment, and it was just an innocent question about why I was hesitating to pray. And...

MARTIN: She was calling you out.

NASHASHIBI: She was calling me out.

MARTIN: Nashashibi says, for him, that moment illustrated the complexity of what it means to be a Muslim American in the age of al-Qaida and ISIS. And at that time, the presidential election was just kicking into high gear.

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DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

MARTIN: It was a refrain Trump repeated throughout the campaign. Last November, he also suggested that all Muslims in the country be included in some kind of government registry. But Nashashibi worries that singling out individuals based on their religion is tantamount to calling all Muslims terrorists.

NASHASHIBI: I get it. ISIS does effectively co-opt, appropriate parts of the Islamic tradition. There's no doubt. I mean, we see that unfortunately in all religious traditions. But I think the question for us is not to be blinded or naive to what is happening across the globe, but when it comes to language, language matters. And what my 10-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old son grow up seeing on CNN, you know, Muslim terrorists, that matters. That has profound psychological effects on children.

MARTIN: We've seen all kinds of people go to Trump Tower to bend the president-elect's ear on a variety of issues. If you were granted 15 minutes with the next president, what would you say?

NASHASHIBI: On some level, I think I would say that whipping up the worst of the sentiments of America, using fear to mobilize people, at the end of the day will come back to haunt us, all of us, and that our community is not going to simply settle for being passive victims in this administration. We are going to organize. We are going to mobilize, and we're going to make sure our voices are heard.

MARTIN: Rami Nashashibi is the founder of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network based in Chicago. Rami, thank you so much for your time.

NASHASHIBI: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.