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Trump’s attitudes aren’t reflected here, members of minority communities say

Abdelhakim Belhadjhamida

Abdelhakim Belhadjhamida, president of the Islamic Society of Belleville, says it is “a wait-and-see situation” as to whether U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s racist comments will have a lasting impact. Photo by Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, QNet News

By Dariya Baiguzhiyeva [1]

BELLEVILLE – The racist views that have been expressed by Donald Trump misrepresent minority communities, some members of those communities here in Belleville say.

Trump is notorious for his promises to ban Muslims from America [2], although as of Wednesday his tweet had disappeared from his account [3]. He has also called Mexican immigrants to the U.S. “rapists [4]” and “thugs [5].” With his victory in the presidential election Tuesday, many are left concerned over the safety of minorities in that country.

Abdelhakim Belhadjhamida, the president of Islamic Society of Belleville [6], said it is a “wait-and-see” situation.

“Maybe there will be more racism and bigotry. We don’t really know if it happens. It could have been just bluffing to get more votes,” he said.

Belhadjhamida, a 51-year-old originally from Tunisia, has been running the society for six years. He has never encountered racism or Islamophobia here in Belleville, he said. There are around 50 Muslim families from different countries – Pakistan, India, Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia – in the city, and they have integrated with the community very well, Belhadjhamida said.

One of the things that concerns him is the way Muslims are negatively portrayed in the media, he said. It is in human behaviour to follow the bad news, and Muslims are often seen as terrorists, he added.

“Regardless if Trump actually is with or against us, he’s mainstreaming the hate speech. That’s unacceptable for us, but we’ll have to deal with it.

“People end up labelling Muslims as a horrific group. I would say 99.5 per cent of Muslims are normal, hard-working, normal citizens.”

Extremists can come from any religion, he pointed out.

“If they are terrorists, they are terrorists. Of course they are bad people. We are in shock whenever something happens – as in shock as any Christian or Jew. It has nothing to do with Islam. ”

He is hopeful that Trump’s past words will not cause lasting harm, he said.

“There is always hope. I think it’s mostly like a wave that hits us, and probably in another week or two weeks, it will just disappear.”

Like Belhadjhamida, Abraham Ramos, an owner of Chilangos Mexican Restaurant [7] on Front Street downtown and an immigrant from Mexico, says he has never faced racism in Belleville.

Abraham Ramos says he believes Trump will build a wall between the US and Mexico, but Mexicans won't pay for it. Photo by Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, QNet News [8]

“I have never been rejected here,” says Belleville restaurant owner Abraham Ramos, who came here from Mexico five years ago. Photo by Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, QNet News

“I have never been rejected here,” Ramos said.

When Trump refers to Mexicans as criminals and thugs, “I guess he’s being a racist. You cannot treat people like that.

“When Mexicans come to the U.S. or Canada, they come to work. If we’re moving permanently, we come to make a better future for our lives, or to send money back home,” he said.

Ramos said he believes Trump will try to fulfill his pledge to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but added that Mexicans will not pay for it as Trump has also promised.

The president-elect has not limited his disparaging comments to immigrant and minority groups. During the presidential campaign there were also multiple allegations that he had sexually harassed women, and a tape emerged of him making crude sexual comments [9]. He also publicly mocked a physically disabled reporter [10] during a speech.

QNet News contacted the Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte and District [11] and the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services [12] for comment on those cases and their possible local impact. They declined to comment, however.