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Muslim Americans: U.S has soul-searching to do

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This week, in a historic moment, an individual who has not held a seat in public office nor served in the United States (US) Military was elected as the 45th president of the US. Real-estate developer and former reality -TV star, Donald Trump, has stunned the world with a landslide victory, despite outrageous rhetoric against minorities such as Muslims, Jews, Latin Americans and African Americans and the LGBT community. He won Democrat candidate Hilary Clinton with 279 electoral votes, against her 228. The 70-year old ran a campaign that was described by many as divisive, but commenters have called it a true reflection of mainstream America.

Trump’s campaign speeches were littered with hateful and abominable statements such as “we have a Muslim problem” and “kill them with pig’s blood”.  Despite the backlash from world leaders and even President Obama, the controversial businessman refused to toe the line.

As the third largest religion in the US, Muslims amount to approximately 0.9 per cent of the American population, according to a study that was conducted in 2010. Despite an overwhelming sentiment of anger within the Muslim community about the results, a number of Muslims have asserted their support for the Republican candidate’s seat in office.

Echoing sentiments of support, the leader of the Republican Muslim Coalition, Saba Ahmed, said that she is excited that Trump had won the presidency.

But Namira Islam, the executive director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaboration, believes his presidency is a huge blow to Muslims.

Islam explains that while shock is still settling in, Trump appears to have shaken up the traditional path of accessing the seat of presidency, where he remains the only president not to have held public office or served in the military.

Given the manner in which Trump ran his campaign, openly marginalising minority groups, she says that citizens are now waiting in anticipation for the newly elected president’s next move, furthermore noting that Trump’s shocking win reflected demise in clear class structures and the accompanying political discourse.

“In terms of demographic factors, there is fear about the country eventually losing a clear white majority. [Since] polls showed that poor whites voted for Clinton and not for trump…so the wealthy white people voted for Trump,” she told VOC Drivetime.

Islam asserts that Trump’s win has opened the discussion around issues of race bias and questioned the so-called ‘American code of ethics’.

“It’s surprising that after Obama’s win, people were against [there being] a black man in the White House. Now they have been able to take someone who has had no experience in government, hasn’t served in the military, has been a reality TV star, and has an ‘un-presidential’ character.”

As the polls almost divided the country between the two candidates, she says that Trump successfully tapped into racist sentiments amongst the population.

While America may forever remember what many describe as a racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic campaign, Trump in his victory speech acceded to assuring the American people that he will work to bridge the socio-political divide and “unite” America.

Islam, however, says that up until his win his rhetoric has been “so divisive”, further describing it as the “real talk” that his supporters have latched onto.

“There were reports last night that the KKK [Ku Klux Klan] authority, David Duke, was celebrating, saying that it was the best night of his life,” she added.

Despite both under outgoing president, Barack Obama’s administration and within Clinton’s campaign, critics strongly opposed calls for invasive practices, such as deportation, surveillance, and drone strikes. Islam asserts that currently Trump remains a “wild card.”

‘Muslims afraid of the backlash’

Islamic studies graduate and the director of the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent, Ahmad Deeb, provided a perspective on youth perceptions of Trumps victory at the polls.

Deeb explains that given the rise in both Islamophobic sentiment and incidents at the onset of Trump’s campaign trail, within the Muslim community there appears to be fears of a possible backlash against Muslims.

“This country has a lot of soul searching to do, as well as the American Muslims within it. In the end hope is not lost; I will not entertain this talk about moving to Canada because Muslims do not cower and run away from struggle.”

He says that although Trumps victory speech was laced with an urgency to unite the American people, many Americans continue to fear that the culture that he has created may lead to an increase in Islamophobic attacks.

Describing Trump’s win as an “uncertain time” to be in America, Deeb almost jokingly requested prayers from the international community as citizens await his presidential rhetoric about minority groups.

He says that while the most worrisome aspect about trumps campaign was his referencing the campaign as a “movement,” which Deeb asserts was ultimately built of xenophobia and Islamophobia, the sentiments appear to have ignited civic participation within the Muslim community.

“But there is some good news; in the Muslim community in America, if there was any type of apathy towards civic engagement and value driven integration, then that should hopefully be eliminated completely,” Deeb stressed.


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