FRANKFURT, KENTUCKY — Abdul Ahmed Ullah and his wife Rameen are second generation Americans. Both of their parents came to the United States before either were born, 28 years ago. Rameen is just eight weeks older than Abdul, but their parents wound up in different areas when they arrived. The couple met at the University of Kentucky when Abdul was there on a basketball scholarship and Rameen was studying political science. They have two children, a boy and a girl, four and two respectively.
Rameen and Abdul were at a restaurant in Frankfurt, taking a break for lunch when they say they saw the live broadcast of the San Bernardino mass shooting terrorist attack that left 14 people dead and more wounded, and their hearts sank the next day when they awoke to read the details of who the suspects were. Even though they didn’t know the shooters personally, they knew “the looks would start coming,” Rameen said. But living in a red state, she would also say that she and Abdul “had grown a very thick skin to implied and overt Islamaphobia.”
When billionaire mogul Donald J. Trump — the front runner for the Republican nominee in next year’s presidential election — declared that he wanted the U.S. government to shut down all immigration of Muslims, Abdul says he and his wife “started to get really nervous.”
“Look, I still think it’s a long shot that any Republican will look sane enough now to win in the general election,” Abdul said, “but holy shit, you never know in this country! No one in their right mind could have predicted that an actor would help allow foreign policy blunders that would help eventually facilitate the longest, most expensive, and least effective war efforts this country has ever endeavored to hoist upon its mantle of war trophies.” After a pause, “So you just never know what will rile up the crazies enough to come out of the woodwork and vote this time around,” he said.
Just hours after Trump announced his plan to shut the country off to all Muslim immigrants, the couple were “completely relieved,” as Rameen put it, to find a small annex attached to a business store front. The owner of the business agreed to sell the annex to the Ullah family for what they felt was a good price. “We’ll really be able to hide out in comfort here,” Rameen told us, “and really it’s right in our target budget range too. Plus, the proximity to shopping and public transportation are quite nice.”
“It’s tiny,” Abdul said, “probably less than 400 square feet in total. But boy I could really see us hiding out from interrogation and imprisonment, and building our little family too, right from within this tiny little hiding place.”
Abdul says he hopes his kids will “really get a kick out of” having to move a bookcase to access the annex. Though, he said, he hopes they’ll be able to learn to stay quiet at night so as not to arouse suspicions, “Just in case Trump wins and being a Muslim in America becomes a much different experience than it is now.” Ultimately though, he says he’s just “feeling very lucky” to have found the small living quarters for his family and that he “still lives in a country where as long as the one major political party that is courting Islamaphobes doesn’t win” next year, he’ll be able to “live a life as a Muslim American where the racism is much, much subtler.”
“And that’s really the American dream; being discriminated against behind your back, not to your face,” Rameen said as the interview came to a close.