US Mus­lims reel­ing and scared

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW YORK: On the morn­ing af­ter the elec­tion, Alia Ali had a sick­en­ing feel­ing as she headed to her job as a sec­re­tary at a New York City pub­lic school, her hi­jab in place as usual. Ali is a Mus­lim who lives and works in one of the most di­verse places in the US, and yet the as­cen­sion of Don­ald Trump to the White House left her won­der­ing how other Amer­i­cans re­ally viewed her. “Half of Amer­ica voted one way and half of Amer­ica voted the other, and you’re like, ‘Which half am I look­ing at?’” she said. “You be­come al­most like strangers to the peo­ple you’ve worked with. Is this per­son racist? Do they like me? Do they not like me? Be­cause that’s what this elec­tion has done.”

Amer­i­can Mus­lims are reel­ing fol­low­ing the elec­tion of Trump, whose cam­paign was rife with anti-Mus­lim rhetoric and pro­pos­als that in­cluded ban­ning Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the country and height­ened sur­veil­lance of mosques across the na­tion. Now, among many of the 3.3 mil­lion Mus­lims liv­ing in the US, there is sig­nif­i­cant fear, along with some reports of ha­rass­ment; one hi­jab­wear­ing stu­dent at San Diego State Univer­sity said she was briefly choked by sus­pects who made re­marks about Trump’s vic­tory.

“There are lots and lots of peo­ple who aren’t go­ing out of the house,” said Eboo Pa­tel, a Mus­lim who heads the In­ter­faith Youth Core, a Chicago-based or­ga­ni­za­tion that works with col­leges and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to build in­ter­re­li­gious re­la­tion­ships. At New York Univer­sity late last week, hun­dreds of peo­ple sat shoul­der-toshoul­der on a grand stair­case of a stu­dent cen­ter to ex­press sol­i­dar­ity af­ter the word “Trump!” was scrawled on the door of a Mus­lim prayer space at the school. Stu­dents spoke of friends who wore head­scarves or other tra­di­tional cloth­ing and were afraid to take pub­lic trans­porta­tion home for fear of be­ing ha­rassed.

Sana Mayat, a 21-year-old se­nior who wears the hi­jab, said the elec­tion made her re­al­ize “there was a large part of this country that didn’t want me here”. “There is an in­tense state of anx­i­ety about the fu­ture,” said Rami Nashashibi, a par­ent of three and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Chicago’s In­ner-City Mus­lim Ac­tion Net­work, which has been in­un­dated with calls seek­ing sup­port since Elec­tion Day. “I grap­pled with the con­ver­sa­tion I had to have with my chil­dren.”

The out­come was es­pe­cially bit­ter fol­low­ing an un­prece­dented voter reg­is­tra­tion drive by Amer­i­can Mus­lims, in­clud­ing get-out-the-vote ser­mons at mosques and the cre­ation of a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, Emerge USA, to mo­bi­lize Arabs and Mus­lims. Enas Al­mad­hwahi, a 28-year-old Ye­meni im­mi­grant who has been in the US since 2008, be­came a cit­i­zen this year and voted for the first time. To mark the oc­ca­sion, she brought her 7-year-old daugh­ter, along with some co­work­ers.

“At that mo­ment, I was so happy,” said Al­mad­hwahi, who lives in Brook­lyn, New York, and works at an ArabAmer­i­can com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion. The next day, when she told her daugh­ter Trump had won, the girl cried. A friend had told the lit­tle girl that if Trump won, it would mean they couldn’t talk anymore. “Ev­ery­thing feels like it’s up­side down,” Al­mad­hwahi said. “I still like to hope Trump will change his words about Mus­lims.”

Trump’s pol­icy plans re­main a mys­tery, but his ad­min­is­tra­tion could rad­i­cally re­shape the Jus­tice Depart­ment, which has been an ally un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in pro­tect­ing Mus­lim civil rights. Trump could also re­peal a key Obama pro­gram that pre­vents the de­por­ta­tion of some im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing Mus­lims, liv­ing in the country il­le­gally.

Mus­lims had far from a per­fect re­la­tion­ship with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. For years, the pres­i­dent kept the com­mu­nity largely at arms-length, send­ing sur­ro­gates to meet with them amid a stub­born mis­ap­pre­hen­sion, fu­eled in part by his crit­ics, that Obama, a Chris­tian, was se­cretly Mus­lim. Many US Mus­lim lead­ers were un­com­fort­able with his for­eign pol­icy in Iraq and else­where, and ob­jected to his pro­gram to fight ex­trem­ism at home, say­ing the fo­cus on Mus­lims ig­nored other threats from rightwing, anti-gov­ern­ment ex­trem­ists.

Still, Mus­lim lead­ers had built solid ties with many gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. Now, they face not only the loss of those con­nec­tions, but po­ten­tially a closed door to their con­cerns. “The friends we have are go­ing to be fewer,” said Farhana Khera, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia-based civil rights group Mus­lim Ad­vo­cates, which has rep­re­sented clients su­ing over the New York Po­lice Depart­ment’s sur­veil­lance of Amer­i­can Mus­lims. “I think we’ll be very much in a de­fen­sive pos­ture.”

Since the elec­tion, mosques and Mus­lim groups have or­ga­nized com­mu­nity meet­ings and con­fer­ence calls fo­cused on how to move for­ward. The In­di­ana-based Is­lamic So­ci­ety of North Amer­ica, the largest com­mu­nal Mus­lim group in the US, is­sued a state­ment invit­ing Trump to en­gage with the com­mu­nity, say­ing “many Amer­i­can Mus­lims are trau­ma­tized by the re­sult of the elec­tion and the fear of what is to come.”The group said there was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from Trump’s of­fice.

Sheik Omar Suleiman, res­i­dent scholar at the Val­ley Ranch Is­lamic Cen­ter in Irv­ing, Texas, and the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, an anti-defama­tion group, dis­trib­uted sug­gested ser­mons for Fri­day prayers at mosques, stress­ing Qu­ranic verses about re­main­ing strong in the face of hard­ships. “Have hope in the peo­ple be­cause Al­lah may turn their hearts to­ward you,” was among the verses they cited.

Faisal R Khan, founder of a youth ad­vo­cacy and peace or­ga­ni­za­tion near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at­tended four Trump cam­paign ral­lies over the last year, in part to protest but also to speak with the Repub­li­can’s sup­port­ers. Khan lived years ago in the Mid­west, where he knew peo­ple who had grown re­sent­ful over los­ing Rust Belt jobs, and said he un­der­stands what drew so many work­ing-class whites to the pres­i­dent-elect. Khan has cre­ated a Face­book page called “Talk To Me Amer­ica,” hop­ing to start a con­ver­sa­tion that can com­bat anti-Mus­lim bias. “Peace­ful protest is good, but at a cer­tain point, we have to sit down and talk,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all hu­man be­ings. We’re all Amer­i­cans.” — AP

NEW YORK: Enas Al­mad­hwahi, an im­mi­gra­tion out­reach or­ga­nizer for the Arab Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of New York, stands along Fifth Av­enue in the Bay Ridge neigh­bor­hood of Brook­lyn on Nov 11, 2016. — AP

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