Hil­lary Clin­ton failed Mus­lim Amer­i­cans

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Maha Sar­fraz Maha Sar­fraz is a high school stu­dent in Bal­ti­more County.

Ishrugged my text­book-laden back­pack into the back seat of my mom’s beat-up Toy­ota Avalon and opened the front pas­sen­ger door. It was early De­cem­ber. I had just got­ten out of a school Sen­ate meet­ing, and I was al­ready an­tic­i­pat­ing my mother’s ques­tions: How was it? Are you still do­ing the Chick-fil-A fundraiser? Do you have an­other meet­ing to­mor­row?

In­stead, the sec­ond I stepped foot in the car, my mom looked at me, eyes crin­kled in con­cern, and asked im­me­di­ately in Urdu, “Are you OK? Did any­one say any­thing?” I blinked. “There was a Mus­lim shooter in Cal­i­for­nia,” she said.

Im­me­di­ately, I un­der­stood. “No one said any­thing.” I sat down and buck­led my seat belt. “I’m fine, prom­ise.”

I hadn’t been ly­ing. I have a close-knit cir­cle in high school and had been tak­ing classes with the same peo­ple for three years: They knew me; I knew them. No one crit­i­cized my re­li­gion or my be­liefs — at least not in front of me.

Yet I still un­der­stood my mom’s con­cern. As Mus­lims, we both carry the same fear that one day, we might run into some­one who isn’t as kind. One day, we might face the same fate as the other Mus­lims in this coun­try, like the three peo­ple — a hus­band, wife and her sis­ter — fa­tally shot in Chapel Hill, N.C., last year, or the two Mus­lim women and their young chil­dren as­saulted in New York City last month by a woman scream­ing anti-Mus­lim rhetoric.

Re­cent sta­tis­tics only con­firm our fears. Ac­cord­ing to a study re­cently re­leased by Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for Mus­lim-Chris­tian un­der­stand­ing, anti-Is­lamic hate crimes have in­creased dra­mat­i­cally, with nearly 200 of them oc­cur­ring last year — a dozen of them re­sult­ing in death. Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity echoed these find­ings in an­other study, find­ing that hate crimes against Mus­lims have in­creased by 78 per­cent in the United States in the last year alone.

And although the FBI won’t re­lease their of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics on hate crimes un­til Novem­ber, there is lit­tle doubt that their find­ings will be sim­i­lar to those of Ge­orge­town and Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity.

In times like these, Mus­lim Amer­i­cans need politi­cians to speak up. To be a voice for us. To pro­tect us.

At last week’s de­bate, I was not sur­prised that pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump did not do this; he is, af­ter all, the man who called for a ban on Mus­lims and the shut-down of mosques in the United States. Rather, it was the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who dis­ap­pointed me.

Although, ar­guably, Hil­lary Clin­ton is more of a cham­pion of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans than Don­ald Trump, she did not of­fer any overly friendly sen­ti­ments in the most re­cent pres­i­den­tial de­bate. Other than stat­ing the need to “co­op­er­ate” with the Mus­lim Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, she did not at­tack Don­ald Trump’s pro­posed ban on Mus­lims or his calls for surveilling mosques.

In fact, nei­ther can­di­date even men­tioned the re­cent rise in hate crimes against Mus­lims. Nei­ther can­di­date said that Is­lam was a re­li­gion of peace or echoed sen­ti­ments about the unity of the coun­try.

Some will shrug this off. They’ll say there wasn’t enough time — even though the de­bate was 90 min­utes long — or that it’s a mi­nor, nit­picky de­tail that nei­ther can­di­dates men­tioned the ris­ing hate crime waves.

For that, I can only say this: Don­ald Trump’s anti-Is­lamic re­marks and rhetoric ap­pear to co­in­cide with the con­tin­ued rise in anti-Is­lamic hate crimes. There­fore, if politi­cians like Hil­lary Clin­ton ac­tively fight back against anti-Is­lamic big­otry, if they fo­cus on Mus­lim Amer­i­can voices, and re­it­er­ate that Is­lam is not Amer­ica’s en­emy, the lev­els of hate can, and most likely will, fall. The storm brew­ing on the hori­zon can fade.

So, I be­seech pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton as well as leg­is­la­tors and po­lit­i­cal pun­dits across the coun­try to men­tion Mus­lim Amer­i­cans of­ten go­ing for­ward. To re­mind the coun­try that Mus­lim Amer­i­cans are still Amer­i­cans first and fore­most. That Is­lam is a re­li­gion of peace, and that in the United States, free­dom of re­li­gion is a con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated right.

Will this stop all of the hate? No, per­haps not.

But at the very least, it will lessen my mother’s worry about my safety in the school.

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