By Roann Abdeladl
For the first time, I feel afraid to be Muslim in America. This might sound surprising because there were many other times when I, a hijab-wearing Muslim teenager, should have felt afraid to be Muslim in America, but, this time felt different. It wasn’t just a distant fear that faded after a few hours, but it was a palpable fear that enveloped my room at 2 AM last night when I found out that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.
I feel entirely let down. I always said that Donald Trump would never win, that the American people would never choose a so-called “leader” who marginalizes, vilifies, and victimizes Muslims. That no matter how many people said they supported him, the voices of reason and peace would prevail. I firmly believed that people in the U.S. would embody America’s values as a “progressive and inclusive” nation. And when you truly trust in people around you,only to be let down by them, it’s a shattering and perplexing feeling.
Prejudice and racism were present before Trump was ever elected. But, the problem became real and unmistakeable when the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world embodied racist behavior and made it okay. When Americans openly chose a discriminatory and racist man as their leader, derogatory rhetoric and actions suddenly became not just acceptable but common. Applauded. After all, they got Trump into the oval office. America just took several, huge steps backwards. After years of relentless advocacy, trial and tribulation, blood, sweat, and tears, our attempts to be a “melting pot” and a land of the free have been wiped out.
As I sat in my room last night, still baffled by the events that had just unfolded, I turned on my phone (which stopped working this morning, shocked by the election results, I presume) and read a message I had just received. A friend of mine texted me saying that she wanted me to remember that she supported me and my community. That she supported my mission to portray my faith for what it really is: a religion of peace. Her two words, as crisp and clear as the air outside, repeated through my head. Hustle Hard.
Just as with any other negative event, we can cry, complain, and moan. But through all of our emotions, we have to keep going. Trump’s plan to marginalize and silence minorities and Muslims has backfired because personally, I am all the more vocal about my beliefs and my work now than ever. Shaken, but vocal, I will continue to work hard to form the kind of community I want to see come to life in America. Through my organization, the Youth Interfaith, I work to bring together students from various religious backgrounds to foster an environment of peace and understanding, and now, I am all the more driven to extend my Interfaith initiatives, to continue defying what people coin as impossible or purportless.
The only question that remains, as phrased by President Barack Obama, is: “are you fired up and ready to go?”