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American Muslims, It's Gonna Be Ok & Steps To Move Forward

Posted on Nov 10, 2016
Melanie Elturk


I woke up today, the second full day after the election results, in a blurred state, remembering there was this looming cloud but it was foggy. I rubbed my eyes, laid up in bed and remembered. It's not a bad dream. This is real.

I think we're all going through the five stages of grief. First it was vehement denial which then turned into rage and depression, and now I'm somewhere between bargaining and acceptance. The truth is, we all have to inevitably get to acceptance. This is happening.

Like all of you, I mourn for the country I love so much. I cried watching Secretary Hillary deliver her concession speech and still haven't fully processed the underpinnings of a Trump presidency.

That being said, we cannot feel defeated. While much of this election had to do with "whitelash" against a changing America, know that much of it was also about people taking a chance on an anti-establishment candidate, about millions of working class whites living in rural areas who feel forgotten, about electing someone whose background is not in politics, about frustration for not having a Democratic candidate people could get behind - point is, do not assume that all white people hate you or want you out of this country. This mindset will only lead to psychological anguish that will turn into an inferiority complex that will strangle us as a community.

This is a setback for our community, to be sure, but each one of us needs to ask ourselves, what did I do to make sure this would not happen? Did I vote? Did I get my parents out to vote? What did I do? If you didn't do anything at all, then you really have no right to complain. Gone are the days of political apathy because someone at your mosque told you it's haram to vote. We are Americans. We live in this country and reap the benefits of this great nation and it is imperative we vote.

A lot of women have expressed fear about wearing hijab. I've even read some cringe-worthy articles encouraging women to wear hoodies or take hijab off altogether - blanket statements to remove hijab as a result of this election are no better than Trump's rhetoric. Now more than ever we need to hold our heads up high, in our hijabs and remember that Allah (S) is with us. Did the early Muslim women take off their hijabs in order to be safe from the Quraysh who wished to do them harm? Now is not the time to lay low, be under the radar or disengage. This is the *defining moment* for Muslims in America and now more than ever we need to be vocal, active and empowered, and yes, in hijab.

Remember that we as Muslims are not the only ones feeling repulsed, anxious and downright scared. Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans and others are all on high-alert. Can the African-American change his skin color? Can the Asian woman disguise her accent? What makes us think we must remove our markers of identity?

Don't forget about your first amendment rights as an American, your God-given right to express and practice your religion, your right that gives you legal recourse if anyone (including our next President) tries to threaten it. If you do feel discriminated against or God forbid are the victim of harassment, be sure to report it to the proper authorities. Here are practical take-aways for all of us:

1) Understand why people voted for Trump.

We have to know and understand that the people who voted for Trump want to be heard and loved just like we do. Those who fell victim to Trump's hate rhetoric are just as scared as we are. Yes, it's true that a large faction of white supremacist groups have come out of the wood-works, but it's also true that millions of low to middle class whites in rural areas feel as though the American dream slipped away when the one factory that kept their entire town afloat moved to Mexico. Just as we have fears - they have very real fears too. We need to listen to them and embrace them as fellow citizens with love and understanding.

2) Hold on to your faith-identity and be an example.

Two types of Muslims will emerge as a result of this. Either you will pretend to be white, not just in looks but actions (akin to what the Jewish community calls "self-hating Jews"), or you will hold fast to your identity as a Muslim, using your faith as a guide and trusting in Allah (S) and His plan. I loved this quote by The New Yorker,

"That such a proudly amoral and publicly hateful man could become the choice of large majorities of observant Christians suggests some weakness in our religious life and our expressions of morality. That he did not lose more support after his racism and misogyny became well-known suggests how commonplace these resentments must be, between husbands and wives and between neighbors. There was not enough individual decency to make plain Trump’s indecency. We are not so good a people as we thought."

There simply isn't enough individual decency in today's society. It's up to us as Muslims to restore that decency informed by our faith that commands we enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil. 

3) Take action

I'll reiterate, if you did nothing to make sure Trump was not elected, you have no right to complain. We no longer have the luxury to be apathetic. We can no longer be fragmented in our own communities letting differences divide us. We have to stand together, as one community of Muslim Americans and do our part. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. In our own individual ways, in our own individual capacities. Figure out what skill and gift you have been blessed with, and use that to contribute to your society in order to make a change.

Moving forward, we all have a lot of work to do. Rather than seeing it as a burden, we should view this as an opportunity and great privilege to show America who a Muslim truly is, to come together as one united community and get involved. And while the short-term may seem like a bad dream, in the long-term, this was the wake-up call we needed. Perhaps this is the catalyst to finally move each and every single one of us to real action.

p.s. I encourage you all to listen to Anse Tamara's beautiful livestream from yesterday, "Keep Calm & Muslim On." As always, she's a guiding force for me in everything that I do, including these last tips, so please give it a listen.