In a powerful, poignant and angry opinion column for The New York Times, Aziz Ansari is speaking out against the anti-Muslim “hate speech” of Donald Trump and others following last week’s Orlando mass shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history.
“Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech,” writes Ansari in an op-ed headlined Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family, “prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.”
Ansari, star of Master of None, the original Netflix comedy series he created with Alan Yang, begins the column – posted on The Times’ website yesterday to be published in tomorrow’s Sunday print edition – by recounting an exchange he had with his mother following the June 12 shooting, in which 49 patrons of the gay club Pulse were killed by a Muslim-American man who swore allegiance to ISIS.
“’Don’t go anywhere near a mosque,’” I told my mother. “’Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?’ I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.”
Ansari, who grew up in South Carolina in a Tamil Muslim family, writes that “being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage,” and that Americans too often associate his family’s faith with violence. “In our culture, when people think ‘Muslim,’ the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from Homeland or some monster from the news.”
Ansari concludes his column by calling for keeping “military-grade weaponry out of the hands of mentally unstable people, those with a history of violence, and those on F.B.I. watch lists.”
The former Parks and Recreation actor specifically calls out Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, for “vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric.”
“He has said that people in the American Muslim community ‘know who the bad ones are,’ implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.” With more than half of post 9/11 mass shootings perpetrated by white males (Ansari sources a Mother Jones report), “I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities ‘who the bad ones are,’ or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.”
Ansari, who describes himself in the column as “not a religious person,” recalls an incident following the 9/11 attacks, when as a New York University student he lived near enough to Ground Zero that his apartment “shook upon impact.” His family was “unable to reach me on my cellphone, was terrified about my safety as they watched the towers collapse. There was absolutely no cheering. Only sadness, horror and fear,” he writes, a reference to Donald Trump’s claims that American Muslims cheered in the streets when the Twin Towers fell.
“Mr. Trump, in response to the attack in Orlando, began a tweet with these words: ‘Appreciate the congrats,'” writes Ansari. “It appears that day he was the one who was celebrating after an attack.”