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As a Republican immigrant, I want my party back

I’m a Muslim Republican who’s also an immigrant. Would that make me one of Donald Trump‘s worst nightmares?

Why do I say that?

Because I’m a proud American citizen and a longtime supporter of the Republican Party — and, Mr. Trump, I want my party back.

Trump’s recent pronouncement to a group of U.S. congresswomen — “go back” to the “crime infested places from which you came” — gives me pause.

“Go back where you came from” is a line that has been used in attempts to vilify me, too, on rare occasions.

All of this hate is poisoning our communities, the places where we live and work and shop — and particularly our nation’s capital.

In the 1980s, I joined the party of Ronald Reagan, who once famously quoted a letter a man had sent him about America’s attitude toward immigrants.

The letter read: “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk or Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.” If told to go back, why would I? I was born in India and came to America to build a new life. My wife and I are an interfaith couple; she came from a Hindu background. Today’s India has been designated as “one of the two most racially intolerant countries in the world,” per an international survey reported by Times of India.

I remember my father-in-law’s advice at the occasion of our civil marriage (performed by the Jewish mayor of Oak Park, Michigan; only in America): “Don’t think of moving back and settling in India again. The society won’t let you live happily there. Make your life in America after this.”

See BEGG, Page 4B

All of this hate is poisoning our communities, the places where we live and work and shop — and particularly our nation’s capital.

President Bush, center, stands with 29 newly naturalized U.S. citizens for a photo opportunity in front of the Statue of Liberty on July 10, 2001, on Ellis Island. Bush attended the ceremony held in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island and led the new citizens in their first pledge of allegiance. FILE PHOTO

Your Turn

Victor Begg Guest columnist

Continued from Page 1B

Not that we had intended to return.

Our goal, as immigrants, was to work hard and build a life for ourselves. We did just that, then we did our part in contributing to America’s greatness.

I was elected to our local school board in Michigan, and I served on the Michigan Community Service Commission, appointed by a Republican governor, John Engler, who represented the “moderate” party of which I became a proud member.

My story is evidence that immigrants are part of America’s spirit. What has made America great from its founding are the waves of families who came to these shores from around the world, including Muslim families coming to this continent for hundreds of years.

When Henry Ford revolutionized modern industry and transportation with his $5-a-day offer, some of the very first workers to arrive in Dearborn and build his cars were from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Egypt. They risked their lives to travel halfway around the world and make America truly great.

What I want you to understand is this: Just as many of your ancestors came from other parts of the world to build American communities, I came expecting to work hard and support our great American institutions.

As I was earning my master’s in business from University of Detroit, I got my hands dirty pumping gas. I even took one of the classic American jobs of the 20th century, a job that defined America’s entrepreneurial spirit for many families — selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Later, our family built a retail furniture chain, employing dozens.

America, we find, with its flaws, is the most tolerant and welcoming place on earth. We love our neighbors, who care about us, including my hijab-wearing wife. I’m an unapologetic Muslim neighbor.

Unfortunately, this disturbing campaign of tweets, disinformation and demonization bears resemblance to some of our history’s darkest chapters — and it must end.

We’re bracing for another politically charged season of divisive rhetoric. My voice, I pray, is heeded by my fellow Republicans to speak up and denounce the hate speech that’s become the norm — end our nightmare.

Fear mongering and the politics of divide-and-rule are contrary to the party of Lincoln.

Victor Begg is a Muslim community leader and the author of the 2019 memoir, “Our Muslim Neighbors.” He lives in Fort Pierce, Florida, with his wife.

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