The presidential debate opened with candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump striding determinedly across the stage towards each other, only to turn to face the audience once they'd reached the stage's center. The pair's avoidance of the traditional handshake made the widening gulf between the two campaigns viscerally real. But nowhere was the divide so stark between the two than their respective responses to a Muslim woman's question about how each candidate would combat Islamophobia in America.
"You've mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?" she asked.
Trump was the first to respond.
"Well, you're right about Islamophobia, and that's a shame," he began, before proceeding to use his entire allotted two minutes to address concerns over international terrorism, not her question. "But one thing we have to do is we have to make sure that — because there is a problem, I mean, whether we like it or not and we can be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not there is a problem. And we have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on."
Trump's quick transition from discussing the unfair way Muslim Americans are profiled as potential terrorists to the heightened expectations he has for those same Muslim Americans to identify potential terrorists threw many viewers, and they took to Twitter to air their concerns.
One Twitter user, author Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura, found a brilliant way to make explicit the double standard Trump appeared to recommend for Muslim Americans. (Trump even seemed to double down on profiling later in his comments, saying: "There's always a reason for everything.")
"Listen," she wrote after repeating his request that Muslims report terrorism upon discovering it. "We don't have special 'terrorist catching eyesight.'"
Buljusmic-Kustura's tweet was well-received by her growing following, receiving over 200 likes and retweets.
It's worth noting, of course, that racial and religious profiling is widely considered to be an ineffective tool to combat domestic and international terrorism. And while "if you see something, say something," is a handy enough motto, the father of the suspect being investigated in connection with the recent bombing in New York City says he did report his son to the FBI — twice.
Clinton, for her part, responded directly to the question and stressed that treating Muslims with respect has important implications for successful foreign policy.
"I've heard this question from a lot of Muslim Americans across our country. Because unfortunately there's been a lot of divisive, dark things said about Muslims," she said, alluding to the swathe of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has proved a cornerstone of Trump's campaign. She continued: "We've had Muslims in America since George Washington, and we've had many successful Muslims... My vision of America is an America where everyone has a place, if you're willing to work hard, you do your part, you contribute to the community."
She capped off her speech with words that both spoke to the woman's question and addressed the concerns of users on Twitter: "I want a country where citizens like you and your family are just as welcome here as anyone else."
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