Comedian Fawzia Mirza as Ayesha Trump at Donald Trump's canceled rally Friday in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Bradley Murray/Moll Jean Nye/Beela Productions/Charger Ent
"It's really a beautiful story, actually. Donald Trump build the Taj Atlantic City for my mother, Miriam Ali."
A Muslim woman named Ayesha Trump is explaining to the camera how, just as the original Taj Mahal was built as a sign of a man's outsized love for a woman, Trump's famous hotel-casino in New Jersey (which he doesn't own any part of now) is an undying testament to a passionate romance. It's a fascinating story. It's also completely untrue.
Ayesha Trump, the subject of a new mockumentary that came out Monday, is illegitimate in more ways than one—she claims to be Donald Trump's out-of-wedlock child, and she's also a character played by Fawzia Mirza, a Chicago-based actress and writer. Ayesha is obviously a vehicle for the usual Trump jokes, but her creator also intends her to be an explanation for some of the GOP frontrunner's most outrageous and hateful statements.
Ayesha Trump: The Muslim Trump
"I just started thinking, What could make him have so much hatred for us?" Mirza tells VICE. "And I decided that so much hate could only come from love he wasn't able to openly express."
Just as many prominent homophobes were later revealed to be closeted gay men, Mirza decided that Trump's Islamophobia might have stemmed from a love affair he had to hide as a married man.
"She was a flight attendant who was serving Mr. Trump chicken biryani and samosas in first class" before they "joined the mile-high club," Ayesha explains in the mockumentary. "They stayed friends after this—with benefits—not health benefits, sexual benefits, because obviously my father doesn't really care about people having health care."
According to the mockumentary, the fictional romance continued in secret until Ayesha's mother died in a mysterious plane crash while en route to China—where Donald Trump had offered her work in one of his signature fashion collection warehouses.
After filming wrapped, Mirza took her Ayesha Trump act to the Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, a raucous affair that was ultimately canceled before it began due to sweeping protests and violent confrontations. She went with a group of friends, including a former US Army infantryman whom she said was prepared to "airlift" her out of the rally with his arms if things got heated. But they were surprised to find Trump supporters were welcoming; some even offered them Subway sandwiches and beer.
For the most part, the Trump supporters the group encountered "were amazingly friendly but so full of hate," Nabeela Rasheed, the executive producer of the mockumentary, explains. One man had told her that he had 4,000* rounds of ammo in preparation for an armed conflict he anticipated between Muslims and Americans. But it wasn't intended as a threat—Rasheed says the bullet collector just assumed that she had "seen the light" and come out in favor of Trump, and therefore would be sympathetic to his point of view.
Some Trump supporters did turn on Mirza when they realized her act wasn't exactly kind to the candidate, according to Rasheed. That's when the shouting broke out.
"As people got louder and louder, Ayesha would just get quieter and quieter," Rasheed recalls. That's part of why Rasheed thinks the character serves as such a fitting archetype for many American Muslims: "She's absolutely an allegory because she has this quiet innocence."
Ayesha's soft-spoken responses helped diffuse the charged exchanges, and, according to Rasheed, mirrored the "gentle manner" of the Muslim-American community.
"They don't go out of their way to show up at rallies. They don't go out of their way to show up at the gay pride parade, for example... or even Black Lives Matters issues," she says. "I'm overgeneralizing a bit, but [I feel like] we have to stand up be counted."
A still of Fawzia Mirza as Ayesha Trump. Courtesy of Moll Jean Nye/Beela Productions/Charger Ent
That theory is backed up by Meira Neggaz, executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a Michigan-based nonpartisan think tank that studies the role of Muslims in America. Only about half of young Muslims, for instance, were registered to vote in 2009, the lowest rate among any faith group. Although a climate of Islamophobia might add to those numbers, by and large, Neggez argues, a lack of civic activity has kept Muslims from being heard politically.
"Muslims don't vote in droves and unfortunately politicians know that," she explains in an interview. "Yes, the Muslim population is a small percentage of this country's population; however, even then, the community is not taking full advantage of its accountability mechanism, which is to vote and to be politically engaged."
She adds that many Muslims are largely the sort of "model minorities" who are "working in jobs that help other people and contributing to the economy of the United States." But they lack the sort of political power that would make demagogues wary of attacking them in the course of a campaign.
"If [Trump] were talking about any other group—whether a faith group or ethnic minority—the way that he's talking about Muslims, he would be shamed," Neggez argues. "We saw this with the Latinos when Univision pulled Miss USA, the pageant that he supports, which is a big deal. They've [also] boycotted his hotels. The Latinos, because of their numbers and because of their organization—they're very organized and have lots of institutions that bolster the community."
Mirza decided to hit back at Trump's vilification of Muslims through comedy in part for this same reason—Muslim-Americans haven't been able to level much of that sort of response to Trump.
She says she wants to create a scenario where he couldn't use her criticism to bolster his own appeal as he's done with so many who have tried to take swipes at him in the past.
"This just seemed like one thing he can never do that with," Mirza says. "He's never going to embrace his illegitimate Muslim daughter... and that's why Ayesha Trump is the perfect way to critique Trump and to shed a light on how what he says impacts people."
The actress doesn't expect Trump to ever actually acknowledge Ayesha, but she's imagined what it would be like for them to meet.
"She'd probably tell him that it's OK, and he doesn't have to be full of so much hate," Mirza says. "And then he'd cry, and then she'd cry, and then she'd offer him some chicken biryani."
*An earlier version of this article misstated the rounds of ammunition the Trump supporter has stockpiled—it's 4,000, not 40,000.
Follow Beenish Ahmed on Twitter.