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Amid Trump Fears, One Dayton Mosque Works To Build Interfaith Communication

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Dayton Mercy Society photo

As Donald Trump takes office as the 45th president of the United States, some in Dayton’s Muslim-American community are wondering how a Trump presidency could impact them. Trump made a number of controversial statements on the campaign trail about Muslims and Muslim-Americans. These included a proposal to temporarily suspend Muslim immigration, which Trump did not specifically reiterate in his inaugural address Friday.

 

WYSO spoke with the Dayton Mercy Society mosque’s interfaith and outreach coordinator about how she and her congregation are reacting to Trump’s incoming administration.

 

Sheherazadh Ishaq has lived in Dayton for 15 years, and has been a member of the congregation at the Dayton Mercy Society for eight years. She and her 7-year-old daughter attend services at the mosque together every week.  

“I like to think that the Mosque is my daughter’s second home," Ishaq says. "Other than my family at the mosque, I don’t have any blood relations here in Dayton.”

Ishaq, originally from Sri Lanka, is a medical researcher. She moved to Dayton with her husband in 2001, and stayed because of the sense of community she found here. But since the election, Ishaq says, she feels less at home.

“It was after the election that I first felt that fear of who I am as an individual, not just an human being," says Ishaq. "That I am a person of color. That I am a Muslim. And that I need to be more alert and more aware of that.”

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Credit Photo courtesy of Sheherazadh Ishaq

Ishaq says her congregation is worried about how some of Trump’s policy proposals may take shape now that he’s in office. Details about any specific policy proposals are unclear, and Trump's inaugural address offered few specifics.

 

Throughout his campaign Trump talked about banning Muslim immigration and creating a database of Muslims in the country. And those ideas have changed the way Ishaq feels about her safety in the Miami Valley.

 

Her unease became more palpable a few days after Trump’s election, when she went to a fundraiser for the Dayton Islamic School at Chuck E. Cheese.

“As I walked in, there were close to 40 or 50 women parents in hijab and my first thought looking around was, this would be a perfect target for some lunatic with a gun. And it took me a moment to get over that, and to remember we should not be afraid.”

David Singleton is an attorney with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. He says while Trump’s controversial campaign rhetoric has sparked fear among some Muslim-Americans, it’s unlikely his more extreme immigration-related policies will come to fruition.

“I think ultimately the courts will not let him infringe on religious liberty by requiring Muslims, for example, to register," Singleton says. "I could not see the courts allowing that to happen. It’s possible, but I think the courts would shut that down fast.”

Ishaq is hoping he’s right.

 

In the meantime, she is participating in more interfaith educational programming with a group called Interfaith for Change: Embracing Our Neighbors. The organization's goal is to increase communication among religious groups across the Miami Valley.