Americans must reject xenophobic rhetoric this election

Khadija Saifullah

On her way back from the Texas Tribune festival’s National Security discussion, UT law student Noor Wadi received a death threat on Guadalupe Street. After filing a police report, there was not much that could be done because she didn’t know enough details about the offender.

According to Texas legislation, you have a right to be protected from civil harassment, which can manifest including verbal threats.

“The one lesson you can take from the Middle East is that things can always get worse,” said the moderator who opened the discussion that afternoon.

“Funny he should say that, though, because the phrase instantly reminded me of the many lessons I’ve learned from the Middle East,” Wadi said in a Facebook post. “Lessons like resilience under the crushing hand of U.S. imperialism, lessons like taking in refugees because it’s the right thing to do (even/especially when your country barely has the resources to do so), lessons like treating foreigners/tourists with utmost respect and hospitality… I could go on.”

These false statements similar to the one made by the moderator, made by men and women who have spent their entire careers propagating hateful rhetoric, have ramifications on Muslims in their daily lives.

“I stepped out to Guadalupe Street, fuming at this lecture and at the fact that the Q&A ended before I could explain to the panelists the terrible impact their words have on millions of Americans,” Wadi said.

As soon as she reached the bus stop, a bus pulled up and as its doors were about to close, a man jumped up and screamed, “They say it’s a great day when you don’t wake up with chalk lines.” The doors closed on him, and he and the bus drove away.

“Let that sink in… After an hour of hearing trash politicians and self-proclaimed experts tell me that my religion and national origin make me worthy of suspicion and investigation, I walk out to the street and get told that my appearance makes me worthy of death; I get told what boils down to: ‘You should be so grateful no one’s murdered you in your sleep yet.’”

Anti-Muslim sentiment in America is particularly infuriating in the way it so often manifests itself as blanket hatred against anyone who appears to be of Middle Eastern descent or practices Islam.

As a result of the Republican nominees’ xenophobic rhetoric, specifically Trump’s call for a ban on incoming Muslims, more people are beginning to believe that Muslims pose more of a threat to society than a benefit.

A recent poll conducted by the University and the Texas Tribune indicates that support for stricter immigration policies is growing among voters in the state. Most troubling is the fact that more Texans now support, than oppose, banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“I don’t even have a coherent conclusion to this story… just a lot of sadness at the way the only country I have ever known as “home” keeps pushing to make sure I remember how little I mean to it.” Wadi said.

She is one of many Muslim Americans on campus who have been openly discriminated against for wearing headscarves. I still remember the Gone to Texas presentation I attended at freshman orientation, all the various minority groups held hands in unity despite the differences we all came from. Regardless of the variety of issues we as Longhorns face on a daily basis, we all ended up at the University in hopes of a good education.

Throughout the next month, we should take time to carefully decide by whom we allow our country to be led. If we promote the same hateful speech that Wadi experienced, a vast majority of Americans will live in fear and pushed away from their identity as Americans. The freedom of religion and the condemnation of racism and xenophobia that our country was founded on directly depends on who we choose our next president to be.