A few days after the first Presidential Debate, American Muslims are stumped, speechless, and a bit overwhelmed as they were once again a topic that was discussed alongside home-grown terrorism. Although the discussion bordered on inclusivity, it remained an irritant for many Muslims who would rather not be associated with terrorism.
The American Muslims have been a key point of discussion in the Trump campaign that has incessantly humiliated and shunned several minority groups. Due to this rhetoric the majority of the American Muslim vote has been leaning steadily towards the Clinton leadership. However, this does not absolve the rhetoric that has spewed much hate and animosity towards Muslims in the past few months. The hostility has steadily risen and so has rhetoric that identifies Muslim communities living in America as suspect and borders on fanaticism. Mosques and Muslim Community Centers are bearing the brunt of this proliferating discussion on their existence and their purpose. But what does it mean for the mainstream American Muslim who walks out the next morning to go to school, show up at work, or go about their daily chores?
As an American Muslim who will be voting once again this year, I find myself unapologetically disgusted by the Presidential Debate. The consistently annoying interruptions and interjections of Donald Trump were almost symbolic of the jarring and jerking that the Muslim community has faced throughout the election campaign. As terrorism and race remain two of the forefront topics for both candidates it seemed incredibly unfortunate that neither were able to fully address the concerns of the minority groups that were watching the debate. The result was that a majority of American Muslims were left squirming and uncomfortable as once again, they were placed under the spotlight by Clinton’s comment, “One of the keys to fighting terrorism (in the United States) is to work closely with Muslims living here.” While I fully agree with the sentiment, it is an uncomfortable moment when your own community is publicly acknowledged as the one who possibly can assist in fighting “all” terrorism.
Additionally, the Trump campaign’s ongoing criticism of American Muslims as possibly “suspect” terrorists has created a turmoil of sorts for the average American Muslim who is suddenly trying a little harder to be polite, smiling a little wider while waiting at the check-out counter of a grocery store, and walking a little faster on deserted streets. It is a ridiculous, but all-too-dangerous game that all of us are unwillingly engaging in. It is almost reminiscent of the post-9/11 period, yet, there are differences because this time the negative rhetoric is being played out on a political platform and from the mouth of a potential President of the United States.
What this really means to American Muslims like me and my family is that my teenage son is beginning to understand and appreciate the power of language. He has learned to engage in discussions about politics and religion at an age when we were too busy playing PacMan in the 1990s. My teenage daughter realizes the implications of the hijab that she wears to her public school and how it clearly identifies her as different from the others. She carries that piece of cloth on her head as a placard of her identity at an age when most American girls are more concerned about Drake’s next song and the color of their lip gloss.
This Presidential election has matured and aged our American Muslim community in unexpected and unprecedented ways. As Hilary Clinton said so eloquently after a fumbling and snafued response from her opponent: “Well, just listen to what you heard.”
The American Muslim community is listening and so is the rest of America.