This essay was submitted by an American Muslim expat who, just like the rest of us, is trying to come to terms with a Trump presidency. In this essay, she eloquently presents, what she believes are, some of the necessary steps towards creating a more empowered and dignified narrative for Muslim Americans in the coming years.
Fatima Begum is a 33 year old mother of four. Originally from the United States, she currently resides in Canada.
I find myself a few days after this election in a complete haze. Part of my conscience is still in shock. The part is coming to terms a Trump presidency.
As an American expat, I have a unique view on the situation unfolding in the states. The polls did not reflect this outcome, but deep down in Canada, Britain, France, and Eastern Europe, we have seen the far right effectively campaign the nativist outcry for change. The anti-immigration sentiments have deep roots in fear of a changing culture, but also lack of control. Simply put: the white man cannot lose control of his country. That leaves no room for women, people of color, different faiths, or different sexual orientations.
Americans somehow thought they were above racism. That we have already gone through the civil rights movements in the 60s and women are clearly equal to men. We had our first black president hold office for 8 years! Americans (especially those on the left) were echoing pleasantries of what we believe on social media, news articles, and conversations with loved ones and friends.
Only problem here is that we did not study and understand the other side. We did not take the time to recognize the fears and concerns that face the other half of our great nation. And worse yet, we look down upon Trump supporters as hillbillies and cast them aside as idiots.
Boy, did those idiots show us.
The developed world as a whole is going through a nativist movement. Many of these movements have not succeeded in Europe (for many reasons including more than a two party system). But Europe has a unique history compared to America. For one, they have endured two world wars and genocide. Second, they live in close proximity to other nations with completely different languages and cultures. And lastly, the European Union binds these countries together economically (which we can see has already shown signs of distress).
We as Muslims are in a unique position. I know everyone reading this is in complete hysteria over Trump being elected the 45th president of the United States. But we are smarter than that. We have been through more than this. And frankly, crying isn’t going to get us anywhere. Here is an American Muslim’s guide to how to take advantage of the situation. Let’s think like Trump for a minute…wouldn’t he do the same?
- Islamophobia is now front page news. Hate crimes are up. Trump made it clear that he would like to suspend Muslims coming into the country (it’s back up on his website today). Guess what? How can you fight what people do not know even exists? This is our chance to show America we are here and part of this country.
- Ok, how? Get out of our stupid Muslim circles. Yes, you heard me. How many of your close friends are non-Muslim. How many times do you invite kids from other faiths to have play dates with your children? Do you include neighbors to your dawats and Eid celebrations? I’m guessing no or definitely not often. But you still want people to love you and understand you. I’m sorry, that’s not how it works. It starts even more basic that running for office in government. MAKE FRIENDS AND SHOW BY EXAMPLE! People tend to stick with like. Democrats have democrats as friends. Muslims hang out with other Muslims. That’s called a bubble, and it has to burst. Now!
- Being ready to sue and fight. Yup, we have to be litigious in that respect. Any form of discrimination that comes up should automatically be understood by those in our community as unacceptable. The only way to protect ourselves is to constantly use the system and push back on anyone who wants to bully us. Does Trump let people push him around? No. Neither do we.
- Yes, it’s time to get involved with government. But that’s not enough. We need to be part of journalism, music, media, and movies. Gone are the days where we can ask our kids to be only doctors and engineers. There are already strong Muslims representing in these fields, but we need more. Until Muslims are commonplace and we can make fun of ourselves, it will always be an uphill battle.
I’m sure that is just the beginning of how to move forward, but I can tell you feeling sorry for ourselves is ludicrous. We have to work and fight for our slice of the American dream. For right now in Trumpland, that slice might have to start with something as simple as dignity.