By Suehaila Amen
As we enter into the final few days before the presidential elections, it is important for Muslims throughout the country to consider just how significant this election is for the future of the American Muslim community – and the pivotal role that Muslims have to play in this election.
We have seen over the past few years the rise of an Islamophobic discourse throughout the United States, a discourse that, by each day, threatens to break into the mainstream and become the permanent norm. Nothing has so fittingly personified this alarming discourse of vitriol and hate than the rise of Donald Trump, who has unleashed a frenzy of bigotry, fear and contempt that is sending shockwaves through America.
But, as reports of Islamophobic attacks continue to increase inexorably, and as Trump’s discourse of hate continues to make life difficult for Muslims along with many others, it is still not too late for Muslims to halt the tide of hate that has been sweeping this country – Muslims just have to turn up on Election Day and vote for Hillary Clinton.
The rise of Trump has caused anxiety, perplexity and confusion among many Muslims, who feel under siege by an increasingly public discourse that treats them as a threat to their own homeland. And, it is not just Muslims who are concerned — African Americans, Latinos and the vast majority of American women are also feeling a sense of helplessness as they see Trump continuously fight back in this election. But this time it is the Muslim community who are uniquely positioned to prevent Trump from taking over the White House.
Muslims live in highly contentious swing states — such as Michigan, Florida and Ohio — and their vote can prove to be the critical difference between a Trump presidency and a Clinton presidency. That is a unique and privileged position to be in as a community, but it only counts if Muslims actually turn up on Election Day and vote for Hillary Clinton.
Many Muslims are wary of voting Clinton, and it is true that she is by no means a perfect candidate – Muslims are aware of her involvement in Libya, and they would not have been impressed with her comments in the debates about Muslims being on the front line of fighting terrorism. But this must be understood in its proper context. Donald Trump has been allowed to dominate the narrative on Muslims and Clinton had to respond to him.
The reality is that she has reached out to Muslims throughout her career, and we have made community progress with her. It is crucial that Muslims do not make the same mistake as in the 2000 presidential election – when George Bush became president by only 537 votes in a state that had a huge Muslim population.Today we find ourselves in a similar position, except the stakes are much higher and the prospect of a Trump presidency far starker than the Bush presidency was back in 2000. At the heart of the problem lies the lack of civic engagement among Muslims. This is due to a number of reasons — one of them is that a considerable portion of American Muslims are immigrants or second generation American Muslims, which often means that they have varying links with their diasporas and ancestral homelands.
This globalist dimension often leads to a disconnect from their civic duties here in the U.S., and consequently many American Muslims are more concerned about global issues related to their diasporas than they are about critical issues here at home. While understandable, we must consider the future of this country. Far more is at stake and we have infinitely more to lose if Trump emerges victorious on Election Day.
Being engaged, and being committed to our civic duties here in the U.S. does not mean that immigrant or first-generation Muslims should abandon their links to their diasporas – these links are often an integral part of the identities of many American Muslims. It simply means that we must be visionary about our future and that of our children who will grow up here in America and exercise our democratic voice accordingly.
Failure to so in this election will set us back by decades and will all but obliterate the years of social, cultural and economic progress Muslims have made in America.
After all, the socio-economic progress Muslims make in this country will, if anything, better enable them to help their Diasporas and ancestral homelands ever further. There is no doubt that an increasing number of Muslims recognise this fact and understand the exceptional importance of this election. Young Muslims in particular have been aroused by the rise of Trump and have engaged in grassroots political activism that is quite unprecedented in the Muslim community.
We must go further and make this kind of civic engagement not only the norm, but also ensure that it is shrewd and foresighted. That means coming out to vote for Hillary Clinton.
There are many Muslims who do not have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton. But Clinton offers us inclusion, diversity, equality and respect – voting for a third party or not voting simply risks us losing all of that and seeing it replaced with pure bigotry.
Suehaila Amen is a social justice advocate and activist from Dearborn, Michigan, working closely with communities on interfaith dialogue, civic engagement, and diversity and leadership education. Transcending geographical boundaries, she lectures globally on CVE/Counter-radicalization initiatives and their impact, the Islamic faith and Arab culture and how ethnic, religious and minority communities deal with policies and xenophobia post 9/11.