By Imam Abdullah Antepli
In the final tense day of what has been a long and bitter election contest, Muslims throughout the U.S. are feeling anxiety and concern as most of the polls paint a picture of a battle that is too close to call. What we do know is that it will be no landslide for either side. But American Muslims potentially have a powerful role to play in the outcome of this election.
All we have to do is come out on Tuesday and vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has fanned the flames of hatred, racism, Islamophobia, bigotry and misogyny ever since he launched his campaign. He has been giving oxygen to forces in America that we all thought were in the past, and each day he brings those forces closer to the mainstream and the accepted norm of our society.
By aggravating Muslims, Latinos, African Americans and women, he appeals to the most unpleasant forces within our country and empowers them. Muslims must show shrewdness and vision in countering his vitriolic rhetoric. We must be realistic about what we can do, and vote with our minds on Tuesday.
Whether we like it or not, voting for Hillary Clinton is the only way to prevent Trump. Clinton is not a perfect candidate by any means, but she has been inclusive of Muslims throughout her career, and she has reached out to the Muslim community in a way that no other presidential candidate has done. Above all, a vote for Clinton is the only way to prevent Trump – that is a reality we must all wake up to.
There are many Muslims who are uncomfortable with voting for Clinton. They view her as hawkish and untrustworthy, especially her foreign policy work. But Muslims who intend to vote for third party candidates such as Jill Stein or indeed not voting at all are simply ignoring some basic realities that our communities face across the U.S. It would be a wasted vote and an ostensible “principled” escape from two candidates who you do not like.
There is simply nothing principled about voting for someone when you know that the person who is far worse will be empowered as a result. A vote for Jill Stein, particularly if you are a Muslim living in a swing state, is simply a vote for Donald trump.
Trump is not just a threat to Muslims, he is a threat to every single minority community in America, whether it is Muslims, African Americans, and Latinos, Jews or immigrants. He does not have to be targeting each of these communities directly and personally (although that is what he has been doing), he will harm every one of them by creating a collective climate of fear and bigotry.Anything that is beyond a narrow and censored world view will be treated with contempt and suspicion – our very social fabric, the way we interact with one another and the social spaces we share with one another – are all under threat if Trump comes to power. Our social and community progress will be replaced by a repressive public discourse that will demand conformity and the most unpleasant elements in the country will be empowered and legitimized.
It is our duty as American Muslims to prevent that from happening. It is unacceptable for us to not engage or vote for a third party candidate when we know that we may be empowering someone who is harmful for our communities – it is in my view the ultimate neglect of our civic and social responsibilities to wider society.
Muslims must keep this in mind when they go out to vote. A protest vote is only a protest if you can actually change the status quo to some extent – the idea that voting Stein (or not voting) amounts to a protest when we know that it will empower Trump is simply absurd. In fact, it is precisely what Trump has been trying to do – a core part of his strategy has been to arouse people to “take a risk,” he wants us to vote for third party candidates because he knows he will be the beneficiary.
This is not some provincial election, the choice will always be difficult. It does not surprise me that many Muslims are wary of Hillary Clinton. After all, the presidential race will never be a personality contest. It is a dense affair where one has to apply his/her intellect and come to a reasoned conclusion.
The reality is that presidential elections have always been difficult choices for American (and other) communities between candidates who are at fault any number of reasons. They are elections where we have to vote with our heads and not our egos. We must put aside our tribal impulses and look for what is in the best interests of the collective community – whether we are Muslims, Latinos, Jews, African Americans or refugees – that is the Islamic ethic, and it should infuse all of our actions.
Imam Abdullah Antepli is chief representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke University. Imam Antepli joined the DOCE in 2015 as senior civic fellow and has contributed to the work on the civic engagement and faith series. Antepli also serves as the director of Duke-Engage Lebanon program. He served as Duke University first Muslim chaplain from July 2008 to 2014. In his new role, Antepli engages students, faculty, and staff to provide a Muslim voice and perspective to the discussions of faith, spirituality, social justice and more.