In the seismic aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, there is only silver lining for millions of women, African Americans, Hispanics, people with disabilities and 7 million American Muslims like me. Now, every minority demographic group in the United States must now feel a sense of collective urgency to mobilize together for the future of our multicultural society based on what we witnessed during this presidential election.
In addition to his blatant misogyny and anti-immigrant xenophobia during his presidential campaign, we have also seen Donald Trump’s political campaign successfully normalize Islamophobia as part of the current national Republican Party platform as it exists today.
But it is important to keep in mind that Islamophobia in America did not begin with Trump and it will not end with Trump. Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson once noted in a Washington Post column that Islamophobia is becoming an entrenched platform within the Republican Party. Gerson observed that during the last two presidential nomination cycles, Republican candidates, at various points, have proposed requiring a loyalty oath for Muslims to serve in government and ruled out Muslims serving in their administration; called sharia law “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States”; described Muslim immigration as “colonization” warning that Muslim immigrants “want to come and conquer us”; said there were only a handful of “reasonable, moderate followers of Islam,” and described Islam as “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet.”
Trump took these Islamophobic tendencies to new levels when he famously proclaimed that we needed to implement “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. After the emotional speech from Khizr Khan at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, instead of praising the Muslim Gold Star family, Trump instead publicly implied that Ghazala Khan - Khizr’s wife - was not “allowed to speak” at the Democratic convention because of her Muslim culture.
He also once told Yahoo News that he would actually consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with an official government database or even possibly mandating that we be required to carry special identification cards with us at all times. In a rare display of journalistic pushback, after Trump once confirmed to reporters that he would set up a database for Muslim Americans, an NBC News reporter asked him point-blank in response:
“Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany?”
“You tell me,” Trump replied while walking away.
Aside from his blatant Islamophobia, we have also seen Trump make abhorrent statements about many other disenfranchised groups within America today. From referring to Mexicans as “rapists” to suggesting that we implement a national policy of “stop and frisk,” which disparately impacts the African American community, the political campaign of Trump proves that there still remains a critical mass of white nationalists who do not care if their presidential candidate shows a blatant disdain for millions of women, Hispanics, people with disabilities or Muslims across America.
In the live on-air words of CNN contributor Van Jones on election night, Trump’s presidential campaign was a successful “white-lash” against immigrants, African Americans and Muslims in the United States today. But on behalf of minorities across this country, we will not be afraid of demagogues like Trump.
If there is one silver lining for the American Muslim community in the aftermath of the Trump campaign, it is that Muslims have politically mobilized at the local grass roots level in ways that have never been seen before. We saw major voter registration drives at mosques and Islamic community centers across the country as American Muslims realized the potential stakes of a Trump presidency.
Some rays of hope at the political level included the victory of a 34-year-old Muslim woman named Ilhan Omar as she successfully became the first Somali-American woman to be elected to a state legislature in Minnesota. In Michigan, professional WWE wrestler Terrance “Rhyno” Guido Gerin was also handily defeated by Muslim-American Abdullah Hammoud in the race for Michigan’s 15th House District seat. And Muslim representative Keith Ellison retained his congressional seat in Minnesota’s 5th district.
There are millions of Americans, including myself, who are stunned that we have just elected a misogynistic and xenophobic polemicist as our commander in chief for the next four years. But we shouldn’t let our shock or despair paralyze us. In fact, now more than ever it is a civic duty and moral imperative for Hispanics, women, Muslims and every other minority group in America to mobilize together to neutralize the effect of Trump’s rise on our great nation.
Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and author of “Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies & Threatens Our Freedoms.”