The lines to see Donald Trump began forming before daybreak. Surely some of those standing for hours would be hungry, and Faizan Syed was hungry for some conversation with them.
“The best way to do that is to go out there, meet people as they’re waiting in line, and give them donuts,” Syed says he was thinking, “so that way they can meet an actual Muslim that lives in their community, and really break down some of the barriers that exist,” he says.
Syed is executive director of the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The reaction? Not always pleasant. One video posted to Facebook showed a man shouting obscenities and insults at the donut-bearing ambassadors.
But Syed says those kinds of encounters were rare. Most Trump supporters, he says, actually engaged in conversation with him. Many gave him a handshake – some, even hugs.
“I think when people come to these type of events, they’re expecting hostility, they’re expecting some kind of confrontation, and when you have a bunch of Muslims coming to you, bringing you a donut and just wanting to talk, it took a lot of people by surprise,” Syed says.
They made sure to steer clear of protesters, so people would be more open to interacting with them, and Syed says in all, they talked with more than 1,000 people.
“When you want to change the hearts of people, you really have to think of the long-term,” he says. “At least, this is one small step in order to perhaps change many of these Trump supporters to be more positive and to be more open-minded, as well.”