Trump Administration Worries Muslim-American Communities In one community where many emigrated from harsh nations, the president-elect's rhetoric brings worries of renewed repression. Cabinet nominees' opposition to a registry hasn't erased those concerns.
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Muslim-Americans Remain Anxious About Trump Administration

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Muslim-Americans Remain Anxious About Trump Administration

Muslim-Americans Remain Anxious About Trump Administration

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Muslim-Americans are anxious about a Donald Trump administration. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he favored halting all Muslim immigration to the U.S. He also suggested he would support increased monitoring of Muslim communities in the states. The president-elect has since retreated from these positions, but as NPR's Tom Gjelten reports, Muslim-Americans are wary.

JOHARI ABDUL MALIK: (Foreign language spoken).

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The Friday prayers at the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Northern Virginia find hundreds of men kneeling in the prayer room, women in a separate room.

MALIK: (Foreign language spoken).

GJELTEN: It's a diverse group - taxi drivers, security guards, housewives, doctors, educators, largely immigrant Muslims. Dar al Hijrah means place of migration in Arabic, but many Muslims now fear they will no longer be welcome under a Trump presidency. The imam preaching here at this day, Johari Abdul Malik, felt the need to remind the worshippers how many of them had already known repression coming from countries ruled by dictators.

MALIK: We had a woman here the other week. She said, Imam, I grew up in Albania where they outlawed practicing Islam. There was no freedom of religion under the communists.

GJELTEN: Even so, Abdul Malik said, Islam there survived and Muslims will survive in America. Dar al Hijrah has known crisis before, after 9/11. The jihadi propagandist Anwar al Awlaki served as an imam here before heading off to join al-Qaida, those years brought FBI scrutiny. Since then, the mosque leadership has cooperated closely with law enforcement agencies. On this day, Abdul Malik brought along FBI agent Paul Abbate, director of the bureau's D.C. field office, to reassure the congregation.

PAUL ABBATE: The essence of our mission is to keep people safe, to keep all of you safe, your loved ones, your families, the communities that we serve, and we do that fairly and equally for everyone under the Constitution of the United States.

GJELTEN: The problem is from Donald Trump, American-Muslims have heard a message of hostility, crystallized in a CNN interview last March.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I think Islam hates us.

GJELTEN: The question now is whether such comments were just campaign rhetoric. Muslim leaders watched what Trump's Cabinet picks said during their confirmation hearings to see, for example, whether a Trump administration would require all U.S. Muslims to register. Gen. John Kelly, Trump's choice for homeland security, said he's against that, so did Sen. Jeff Sessions, set to be attorney general. But Sessions also said he thinks someone's religious beliefs, not just their actions, but their beliefs should be a factor when deciding whether to let them into the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF SESSIONS: Many people do have religious views that are inimical to the public safety of the United States.

GJELTEN: President-elect Trump is advocating extreme vetting to weed out immigrants, radicalized Muslims, for example, who might pose a security threat. A 1990 law says people can't be barred from the United States on ideological grounds, but another law allows the president to keep out any class of people he considers, quote, "detrimental to the interests of the United States," unquote. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, says President Trump could interpret that authority as allowing him to do what he wants.

MARK KRIKORIAN: The president directs his subordinates to keep out anyone who, you know, is a member of this class of persons, which is to say people who think it's OK to chop people's heads off and throw gays off of buildings even though they have not engaged in that activity themselves.

GJELTEN: At Dar al Hijrah, almost all the worshipers last Friday stayed to hear the FBI agent. Wadi Adam Lahrim emigrated as a child from Morocco 30 years ago.

WADI ADAM LAHRIM: I have three children ages 7, 11 and 12.

GJELTEN: His plea - don't lump us Muslim-Americans in with ISIS terrorists.

LAHRIM: We would like the rest of the U.S. to understand us, just as we took the time to learn your language, your culture, and to understand you and be able to work with you and live with you, I hope that some folks in America will take the time also to get to know us rather than hate us.

GJELTEN: One concern - President-elect Trump has not yet invited any Muslim faith leader to his inauguration. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF ISLANDS SONG, "CHARM OFFENSIVE")

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