Rose Hamid drove from Charlotte to Friday’s Rock Hill rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wearing a Muslim headscarf called a hijab and a blue T-shirt she’d had printed that morning with the words “SALAM, I COME IN PEACE.”
She and several others wore a yellow eight-point star with: “Muslim,” evoking Nazi treatment of Jews forced to wear Stars of David during the Holocaust.
Her plan was not to disrupt but to stand and protest silently, to show Trump’s supporters that Muslims “aren’t the scary people depicted on TV.
“I came with a sincere belief that if people can get to know someone different, create a one-on-one interaction, it might change their views,” Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant, said Saturday.
As she entered a packed Winthrop Coliseum, two women told her they were glad she’d come. Another woman lowered a seat for Hamid to sit. Before the candidate came on, she participated in “general chit-chat” with his supporters all around her.
“These were all signs of welcome,” she said.
But when Trump began talking about Syrian refugees with photos of members of the so-called Islamic State group, or ISIS, on their cellphones, Hamid stood and staged her silent protest.
Immediately, to chants of Trump’s name from supporters, a police officer said she had to leave. As the officer escorted her upstairs to an exit, several supporters jeered her. “One man said: ‘Do you have a bomb?’ I said, ‘No, do you have a bomb?’ ” Hamid said. “Another guy jumped into the aisle and shouted, ‘Get out of here! Get out of here!’ I said, ‘You don’t even know me. Why do you say these things?’ ”
I stood for all people who have been marginalized. People have forever used fear – of the other – to rally people for whatever their cause might be. It’s reprehensible.
Muslim protester Rose Hamid
Some of her “new friends” apologized as she and a few other protesters were led out.
“I stood for all people who have been marginalized,” said Hamid, the president of Muslim Women of the Carolinas who writes a monthly faith column on Islam for the Observer. “Where does he get that stuff? ISIS uses the same tactics. People have forever used fear – of the other – to rally people for whatever their cause might be. It’s reprehensible.”
Story spread quickly
Saturday, Hamid had been interviewed by CNN. Her story had been in newspapers, on TV network websites and elsewhere on the Internet. And she was getting more interview requests as the story of her removal for standing silently spread quickly. About 100 people posted comments on her Facebook page, 90 percent, she said, praising her courage.
Winthrop University student Ryan Brooks posted an apologetic letter to Hamid on the Odyssey website for millennials:
“I’m sorry that you experienced such outright hatred on my campus at a political rally ... for both metaphorically and literally standing up for what is right,” Brooks wrote. “In no way, should you feel ostracized because of your faith and in no way should you be convicted because of your convictions.”
Brooks assured her that Winthrop “embraces” diversity.
I’m sorry that you experienced such outright hatred on my campus at a political rally ... for both metaphorically and literally standing up for what is right. In no way, should you feel ostracized because of your faith and in no way should you be convicted because of your convictions.
Winthrop University student Ryan Brooks
On his Facebook page, economist and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich urged people to attend Trump rallies wearing hijabs or Stars of David. “All of us have the right in this free country to stand up in silent protest ...” Reich wrote.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Trump to publicly apologize to Hamid.
Efforts to reach Trump’s campaign weren’t successful Saturday.
The leading Republican candidate has said that if he was elected he’d impose a temporary ban on most Muslims from entering the country. He said he’d order surveillance of U.S. mosques and a database of information gathered on some Muslim-Americans.
Surprised at attention
All the attention surprised Hamid. Other protesters, including Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, were also removed.
Hough said police officers asked him before the event why he was attending. “I was clear: I told them there was a good chance I’ll say something,” he said.
Hough did, after Trump talked about “radical Islamic extremists.” He said he was “aggressively” removed from the arena.
“The anti-Muslim sentiment in the crowd was very clear,” Hough said. “The crowd was feeding off the red meat Trump was feeding them. He did nothing to diffuse it.”
But Hamid said nothing. She just stood.
She was raised a Catholic but lapsed before confirmation. She didn’t become a Muslim until she married Imad Hamid and they started a family. “I began to learn more about Islam and felt like this was the right course of action,” she said.
As head of the Muslim women’s group, she’s tried to bring people of different faiths together “so we can better understand one another. ... These people in ISIS try to present Islam in a certain way. But I don’t know what the heck they’re following, or who is funding them. They’re not following Islamic doctrine.”
Hamid said she’d intended to be respectful of Trump’s supporters.
“They came to listen to Trump, and I respect that,” she said. “They have that right. But I, too, had the right in this country to stand silently and demonstrate.”