When 18-year-old Azeeza Hasan delivered a valedictory address to graduates of Briar Woods High School this spring, she joked that if Donald Trump were president, he might have deported her.
“I gotta tell you, I am quite relieved to be up here before Trump becomes president because if he were right now, I’d be giving this speech from a raft somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic,” said Hasan, who is Muslim and wore a head scarf beneath her mortar board at her graduation ceremony in Loudoun County, Va. (While Trump has not said he would deport Muslims, he has proposed barring Muslims from entering the United States.)
Hasan, who is bound for Brown University in the fall, said she has grown increasingly disturbed about Trump’s rhetoric — not just what he has said about Muslims, but also his references to women, immigrants and his mocking of a disabled reporter.
So when she learned Trump would throw a rally in the auditorium of her Ashburn, Va. high school on Tuesday, she and other students organized a “silent protest” to show attendees what Briar Woods High is really like: a diverse and inclusive place where Hasan has never felt uncomfortable because of her faith. The school in the Washington suburbs is nearly 40 percent minority.
“It was to essentially denounce all the indecent rhetoric coming out of Trump’s mouth. Making fun of the disabled … xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny,” Hasan said. “Things that we feel are poisoning this country.”
She helped to organize the demonstration on Facebook. While Hasan did not get in line in time to enter the rally Tuesday, she said friends and classmates lined up with Trump supporters. Once inside, they donned shirts with “#stumpTrump” and other anti-Trump slogans, locked arms and faced away from the Republican nominee for president. Hasan said her friends were escorted out by authorities.
Hasan remained outside, mingling and sometimes conversing with Trump supporters. She said some were cruel to her, including a boy who approached Hasan and her two younger sisters and yelled, “You’re ugly!” Some scowled silently at the sisters — who all wear head scarves — and gave them a thumbs down or a middle finger. Hasan said she believes they were targeted because they are Muslim. One man handed her a sheet of paper calling Islam a religion of rape and murder.
It was an eye-opening experience for Hasan, who said she has been mostly insulated from attacks on her faith in Northern Virginia and on the Briar Woods campus. She knew Islamophobia is out there — “we see it on the Internet,” she said — but she had never experienced it herself.
But Tuesday, “for the first time, I was scared to be at my school.”
“I hoped it wasn’t true,” Hasan said. “But now I guess I’m no longer ignorant of the ignorance out there.”
What would she say if she had a word with the Republican presidential candidate?
Hasan said she would want to explain that her grandfather, like his, immigrated to the United States and earned a college degree here. She would ask him why he has been attacking Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq who have spoken out against Trump.
But, Hasan said, “I wouldn’t say anything rude or profane. He is a presidential candidate.”