LEWISTON, Maine — In Lewiston’s downtown, where Somali refugees regularly conduct business and socialize in Somali-owned shops on Lisbon Street, there was strong reaction to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Many refugees said the GOP candidate doesn’t understand them or their religion.
Abdikadir Mohamed said he read online about Trump’s position, which has been widely condemned, including by members of his own party. He said the comments are hateful and misinformed since Trump seems to be painting all 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as potential threats.
“Is he trying to say all those people are terrorists?” he said. “There are a lot of Muslim countries. To brush all of them in one brush is not right at all.”
Mohamed, who has lived in Lewiston for nine years, works in a local bakery and is now a U.S. citizen, said Trump should instead be focused on how the U.S. can improve security.
“I feel it’s not right,” he said. “He should talk about security and not talk about a specific religion or a specific culture.”
Nearby, at the Mashallah Store, shopkeeper Aden Mohamed spoke through an interpreter about his concern that Muslims not be singled out from other religions. He said we all need to stick together.
“What he’s saying is we love Americans,” Mohamed said through an interpreter. “We love Americans. They welcome us and we really appreciate it.”
Mohamed has lived in the U.S. for 10 years.
“He just say his idea, but I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Anisa Dol.
At another shop on the same street, Dol said she doesn’t think most Americans support Trump’s position, but the fact that some people do makes her sad. She said the GOP candidate seems to have forgotten that what makes the U.S. strong and great is that it is a melting pot of beliefs and cultures.
“[In] America, everybody can live,” Dol said. “They have so many religions living here. It’s a free country. If you are Muslim or Christian, they can live. Everybody’s brothers and sisters. Nobody different.”
Dol has lived in Lewiston for more than a decade and said she feels safe living in this community. She hasn’t had anyone bother her. But she said she wonders, given some of the anti-Muslim sentiment, whether that will be the case in the future.
And Mahmud Muktar, the young translator from Somalia, said he wants his neighbors in Lewiston to know one important thing.
“We came here for peace,” he said. “We didn’t come here fighting or terrorists or all that.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.