Aziz Ansari is an actor and comedian famous for his character on the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” among other productions. His parents are Muslim immigrants from India. He recently wrote an editorial in The New York Times blasting Donald Trump, calling the candidate “hate-filled,” “xenophobic,” and that he makes Ansari scared for his (Muslim) family. Below is my response.
“Parks and Recreation” is one of my favorite TV shows and your character, Tom Haverford, is hilarious. I love going back and watching reruns. As such it is an honor to write to you.
I read your New York Times op-ed on Donald Trump, in which you blasted him for being bigoted. In response, I have a few questions for you.
You are pro-LGBT. However, most majority-Muslim communities around the world have a very poor track record on LGBT treatment. In fact, in 10 majority-Muslim countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. Trump, however, supports LGBT causes. Have you written letters to Muslim scholars, Muslim newspapers in your parents’ home of Tamil Nadu, India, or other places, holding them accountable for being anti-LGBT the same way you wrote your letter to the Times against Trump?
Aziz, you are a supporter of feminism. Yet I’m sure you’re aware that majority-Muslim countries have an abysmal track record on women’s rights, whether the issue is female genital mutilation, forced marriage, legally sanctioned domestic violence, honor killings, denial of education for women and girls, or many, many other expressions of their human dignity. Are you fighting against the oppression of women in the Muslim world with the same focus and urgency that you are against Trump?
You say you are not a religious person, unlike your parents, who are Muslim. Yet I’m sure you know that in many majority-Muslim areas, there is no freedom of religion such as the kind you enjoy in the United States, and most people in those places cannot freely leave Islam, as you are able to do. In fact, in Saudi Arabia, atheism has been branded by the government as terrorism and is subject to prosecution, and conversion from Islam is punishable by death. Have you written letters to popular newspapers and media in Saudi Arabia or other majority-Muslim countries demanding they embrace freedom of religion—including the freedom to leave Islam—the same way you wrote your letter to the Times against Trump?
You’ve suggested in your comedy sketches that you believe religion should stay out of government. Thankfully, the United States enjoys the separation of church and state that you prefer. However, Islam contains the principle of Sharia law, which says Muslims should embrace Islamic government as laid out in the Quran. In fact, most majority-Muslim countries adopt at least some form of Sharia law.
Trump, by contrast—not being an evangelical—is (probably) pro-choice on abortion and pro-LGBT, similar to yourself. So my question is, have you written letters to the newspapers and leaders in Muslim communities arguing for the kind of separation of church and state that we enjoy in the United States, the same way you wrote to the Times rebuking Trump?
Aziz, thinking about all these points and about your progressive worldview, it seems clear to me that Islam conflicts with your values as an American much more than Donald Trump’s values do. Perhaps your attack had the wrong target?