The scent of cinnamon and gingerbread wraps me in a warm embrace as I sit at a tiny table tucked away in the corner of the café. Michael Bublé serenades me through the speakers, dreaming of a white Christmas over the bubbly babble of shoppers and the regular hiss of the espresso machine.
Though steam wafts from the tea in the china mug in front of me, my heart has been chilled to match the frost forming on the window. An hour ago, the idea that my family would never be able to come home for the holidays would never have crossed my mind.
That’s when I was splashed with the most recent batch of venom to spill out of Donald J. Trump’s gaping maw.
To anyone who has been following the meandering mess that is this maniac, his comments should come as no surprise. The ultraconservative and grossly prejudiced Republican presidential hopeful, on top of every other rampant racist remark that occupies his regular rhetoric, has, according to an article from the New York Times, called for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders “can figure out what’s going on.”
“Without looking at the various polling data,” Mister Trump has said in a statement issued by his campaign, “it is obvious to anyone the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Typically, these words would not faze me. I would dismiss this comment as yet another cheap shot at Islam by a person who chooses not to understand it.
Yet these words come on the heels of a statement made only yesterday by one Mister Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, a Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, only a couple of hours from where I live. He urged his students to carry guns on their person “so we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed us. Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever showed up here.” This statement was met with roars of applause and admiration, and this statement, combined with the repeated racist rhetoric of Mister Trump, continues to underline one very clear idea:
My family is not welcome here.
My father, who fled a nation decimated by repeated war and invasion in order to seek an education, who was determined to build a better life for himself, who was never handed anything but worked for everything, who would give the shirt off his back even when he had none to give, is not welcome here.
My mother, born in America to Americans, who chose to convert and learn a whole new culture, who defies every attempt made to tell her what she cannot do and refuses to let anyone step on her independence, who supports her children when nobody else will, is not welcome here.
My sisters and my brother, my beautiful siblings who possess gifts I will never have, whose time I value more than all the money in the world, who make me proud to be their big brother, are not welcome here.
I am not welcome here.
What angers me most, what makes my heart rage against my ribs, boiling my blood and stinging my eyes with fury, is the sheer irony that these comments, these hate-filled, xenophobic remarks, are being made during this, the season of Christmas.
These “good Christians,” these “holy men,” these figures who reportedly sleep with the Bible by their bed and their Lord and Savior watching over them, would make their Prophet cringe. This is the season during which the Messiah was born, the season that ushered in your holiest of holy figures. Would He approve of your words? Would He condone your behavior? Would He sit solemnly by and nod as you spat your hate at people who have done nothing to earn your misplaced ire?
This is the season for giving, for caring, for love. What love have you in your heart other than love for your own self?
Your words have corrupted this happy season. The snow that dances in the night air, glistening in the strings of cheery lights, has been stained by the noxious fumes that flow from your mouths. The joyous songs that praise the Lord and wish you a Merry Christmas have been drowned out by the hatred that you bellow from your rotten podium.
What do you know of Islam? What do you know of my people, who believe in Jesus just as much as you do, who also regard Him as the Messiah? What do you know of my father’s people, who did not celebrate on 9/11, as Mister Trump would want us to believe, but cowered in fear from 9/12 onward, knowing full well the fury that would be rained down upon them, the blame that would be laid upon them in response to the actions of the radical few, those monsters who we condemned then just as much as we now condemn the poorly-named ISIS, a group that bears more similarity to the Antichrist than it does Islam?
You have turned this most joyous of seasons into a season of fear.
For the longest time, this period of the year has always been my favorite. Whether we were on the cool beaches of Beirut with my father’s family, or gathered around the tree in Richmond with my mother’s family, this season has always been the happiest season for me. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday because, for the longest time, I believed that no matter what wars raged outside our windows, no matter what difficulties we were facing on our own, when our family gathered together, nothing could harm us. For one day out of the year, we were together. We were happy. We were safe.
When one man does not want my family in this country, and when another man threatens to end my family before they even arrive, I can comfortably say that I cannot feel safe anymore.
This is an open invitation to Misters Trump and Falwell:
I want you to tell me why you hate me.
I want to sit down with you and give you the opportunity to tell me, to my face, why you hate my family, why you hate my people.
I want you to tell me what Islam, true Islam, a religion of peace whose people gave your people charts of numbers and maps of stars, stockpiles of medicines and temples dedicated to education and the arts, did to make you hate us so.
I want you to understand that ISIS is not Islam and should not be referred to as “the Islamic State.” Their actions are as un-Islamic as your words are un-Christian. In fact, I’d appreciate it if you started referring to it as “Daesh,” which is their Arabic acronym and which loosely translates to a derogatory term in Arabic. This is also the phrase that almost every nation except the United States uses to refer to this heinous group. Maybe you two can start a trend. Maybe you can redeem yourselves.
I would love to give you that chance. I would love to have the opportunity to sit and talk with both of you, were I not convinced you would shoot me on sight.
Remember this as you kneel before the Cross on your Lord and Savior’s birthday, as you pledge your souls to the man from Nazareth who looks more like my family than he does your stained glass portraits, who died so you may stand before Him and spit your hate:
I hope, if nothing else, that you have a very Merry Christmas. As long as you ensure that my family will never be welcome in their own home, I know that I won’t.