Santa Barbara Muslims react to Donald Trump’s election

People across the county are trying to figure out how to move forward in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory.

Trump led a divisive campaign, making hostile remarks about Muslims, immigrants and women.

To find out how Santa Barbara’s Muslim community is feeling, KCRW’s Larry Perel spoke with Iman Yama Niazi, a religious director at the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara

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Friday prayer at the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara. (Yama Niazi)

KCRW: During Trump’s campaign, he cast suspicion on Muslims and Muslim immigrants. How do you and other Santa Barbara Muslims feel now that he’s our President elect?

Niazi: We have mixed feelings. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty about what’s going to happen. There are a lot of people who are praying that things don’t go as he’s promised. But, we’re hoping the American public and others will stand up for minority rights and give us equal treatment like other fellow Americans.

What’s the conversation like among Muslims you’ve spoken with?

There’s a lot of frustration. This is not something our community expected would actually happen. We thought it was a lot of speech that Americans wouldn’t accept, but now we’re praying and seeing what we can do to spread compassion. 

Are people worried about what his administration could do?

Absolutely. For one of us to be sidelined is the beginning of when our rights are taken away. Our Jewish friends have been very supportive. They have a lot to relate to from Hitler Germany. 

What peace has your organization found during this election?

We are aligning ourselves with other minorities that are feeling anxiety, grief and uncertainty, and letting people know that we’re out to love them.

KCRW also spoke with Ping Chong, an artist who focuses on telling the stories of those living between two cultures. His latest production, Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity, shares the stories of five young Muslims growing up in New York City after 9/11. You can catch it in Santa Barbara on Saturday.

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The cast of Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity. (Adam Nadel)

KCRW: Does this production resonate differently with you or the cast members now than it did before Trump was elected?

Chong: It’s very troubling for [the cast]. So much has happened between the time we performed this project and now: the Paris attacks, the attacks in Nice and, certainly, the election of Donald Trump. His rhetoric makes it very difficult for Muslims not to feel threatened.

Is their a similarity you and your cast feel between post 9/11 and now?

I think it’s more intense now, because of what Trump has said and his attitudes toward Muslims.

Many minority groups feel personally attacked by not only Trump, but also those who voted for him. What are you doing with your art to change that?

What I’m trying to do with these projects, and not just for the Muslim community but any marginalized community, is to help the audience recognize the humanity of these people. The idea is you come into the theater, see these people on stage and see “other,” but by the end of the show you see that they are just like you.

Art is about bridging our humanity, whereas politics is about demonizing people.

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(Adam Nadel)