It’s time for American-Muslims to solve their identity crisis

Had we woken up to a different result on November 9th, the world would not have suddenly become a better, more just place.

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Had we woken up to a different result on November 9th, the world would not have suddenly become a better, more just place.

The worst has happened. Donald J. Trump is, unfathomably, president-elect of the United States of America.

As we absorb the news, we feel embarrassed. An undignified reality star is about to become the most powerful man in the world, and our compatriots put him there. But this is beyond the shame that Trump’s buffoonery brings to this country; Trump’s election is a sweeping indictment of two major forces that drive our lives here: our political system and our popular culture.

Americans of intelligence and conscience are shocked and outraged. I saw colleagues and family members wear all black the day after elections to, as they put it, “mourn the death of democracy.” Minorities all over this country are afraid. Immigrants fear deportation, Latinos fear profiling, Black Americans foresee even more police brutality.

As an educator, I found the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report “The Trump Effect,” which details the increased bullying of students perceived to be minorities or Muslims in American schools over the 2016 election season, particularly saddening and revealing. Unbelievable incidents like the one at Royal Oak Middle School in Michigan, where seventh graders are heard chanting, “Build the wall!” at a Latina student are not only real, but caught on camera. That children are being made to suffer is heart wrenching, but that other children are spreading the vitriol is, to put it mildly, disturbing.

This is one of those moments of collective and multitudinous existential crises.

What is this country called America, this giant cauldron of racial tension? Is this truly a racist nation, or just a populace that loudly displayed its discontent with the status quo by selecting the anti-establishment candidate? The frightening reality is this: while all 60+ million citizens who made a concerted effort to vote for Trump do not consider themselves racists, they accept racism from their candidate and his supporters.

It’s a curious thing to be a minority in the United States. You see this country’s history for what it is–riddled with bigotry and cruelty, established by genocide and slavery. You see the lies, you know the liars, but you’re also American, and it’s so hard for an American to give up hope.

Ah, but moments like our current one do not exist in a vacuum. Strip away the American Mythos, and you will see that the blatant and shameless racism we’ve seen over the past several months has always existed deep within the unspoken corners of America’s soul. The voices of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Dubois and Brother Malcolm have tried to express the angst of their plight, but they have been de-revolutionized and secularized and whitewashed by history.

They tried to tell us that the system is broken. We should have listened, for at least we would have been prepared. When we saw the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” we should have joined the chorus of Black and Brown voices that asked, “For whom was it ever great?”

But instead of listening, we tried to fit into the broken system that leaves so many behind, to get our own piece of the “American Dream,” which has been a political and cultural force (if not a reality) for too long. We bought into a system that steps on the poor and the weak. We began operating in ways antithetical to our Divine values, and now, we American Muslims are left wondering. Waiting. What will the impact be on us?

This was a reminder, a letter from President-elect Donald J. Trump’s supporters–from the teeming, disgruntled White working class–  there is a large faction of America that thinks we don’t belong here.

Had we woken up to a different result on November 9th, the world would not have suddenly become a better, more just place.

All I can say to my American-Muslim brethren is that it is time to solve our identity crisis. It is time to wake up. To be American–indeed, to be a citizen of any nation–is not to be confused with the human soul’s Divine purpose here on earth. Let me state this unequivocally: our greatest mistake, sisters and brothers, is placing even the smallest amount of hope in any entity beyond Allah the Almighty.

Had we woken up to a different result on November 9th, the world would not have suddenly become a better, more just place. Some immediate unpleasantness could have been mitigated (and yes, I’ll admit that public education would not be such an imminent concern for this teacher), but Hillary Clinton is not our ally in Truth, and she would not have saved our world from rampant injustice.

“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” – The Holy Qur’an (6:165)

Perhaps President-elect Trump is a harbinger of the Apocalypse, or perhaps not. This time of uncertainty should be a watershed moment for our community, for in it, we can see with clarity what politics has obfuscated. As we lament the current state of things, let us recall the unjust rulers our exalted Prophets and Imams have faced. Our history is peopled by holy figures who have been oppressed by tyrants like Pharaoh and Yazid. This is the time to divest from systems of corruption that will fail us, and reinvest in our spiritual well-being. We must refocus, recenter, and rejuvenate our spirits.

by Zeinab Chami



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