I am getting increasingly disturbed and upset by the reactions I am seeing from the American Muslim community regarding Trump. There is this frenzy and hysteria gripping so many. And I understand that we should be sympathetic to fears and provide comfort. But things are getting really out of hand. My question is: Where have we been for the past 8 years?
Do you want to talk about privilege? Let’s talk about privilege. If you were a Muslim during the Obama administration without a real sense of fear and paranoia and concern about yourself and your family, you must have been highly privileged compared to the rest of us. If you have been passing your days for the past 8 years without a real sense that the federal government could target you at any time and sink you and your family into a living nightmare, and only now, only now that there is a president-elect Trump do you feel anxiety, then I’m sorry to say: you’re either naive or you’re highly privileged
And I am not using the word “privilege” here in a rhetorical sense. Many in our community benefited greatly from the Obama admin. Many of them were in the Obama admin and were in the good graces of federal authority. So it is no surprise that those who profited from partisan politics for 8 years are upset and disappointed that the party has been cut short. But for the rest of us, nothing has changed.
I understand people have short memories, but are Muslims not aware that in 8 years, under Obama’s directive, the crisis in the Middle East has gotten far worse than it was under Bush? Are we not aware that in 8 years under Obama’s directive, Muslim civil liberties have been greatly eroded compared to the Bush years? These are not my opinions. These are facts as determined by independent, non-partisan analysts. Let’s take off the rose-tinted glasses.
Frustratingly, Muslims insist on operating under the mistaken presumption that one party is categorically more evil, more malicious, more anti-Muslim than the other. I’m sorry, but I just can’t take seriously any discussion or reaction premised on this gravely mistaken misunderstanding of the way this country’s government works and has worked right before our eyes.
Do you know what it’s like to feel that federal agencies are constantly watching you and your family? Do you know what it feels like to go through the airport and get extra scrutinized and worry that you might not even be able to board the plane because you’ve been put on the no-fly list that Obama expanded to more than 10X its size during his tenure? Do you know what it feels like to stay in the house with your family nervously after another terrorist attack or “entrapment plot,” partly because you’re worried about backlash if you step outside but also because you’re worried Obama’s DHS or FBI agents could “stop by” at any time for a “chat”? Have you been questioned by the FBI, where you’re left wondering, how did they know I’m a Muslim? How did they know where I live? Have you had family members questioned by the FBI? Many Muslims experienced all of these things and much, much more during Obama’s tenure, because of Obama’s policies. Others were not so burdened.
Were you in Boston when the Boston bombing happened? Were you in San Bernardino when the shooting happened? I was coincidentally in both those cities when the attacks took place and saw firsthand the chaos that ensued. People who are imagining this dystopian future under Trump clearly didn’t see or don’t remember how bad things were throughout Obama’s presidency, especially in the aftermath of the many attacks or entrapment cases that took place with a clockwork regularity. Is Trump going to be much worse? Maybe. Allahu `alam, but those embroiled in histrionics that assume that Trump succeeding Obama is a transition from paradise to hell need to get a grip.
Most reasonable Muslims heading into this election understood that Clinton was just as despicable as Trump if not more so. I thought and still think that a good argument can be made that Trump, not Clinton, was the “lesser of two evils” as far as the American Muslim community was concerned.
But if Clinton had won, would there have been this sense of desperation and anxiety, the emergency masjid meetings, the impromptu support groups, etc.? Why not? Didn’t most of us recognize her as evil, albeit of a lesser variety (and even that was not clear)? So what gives? Why did that all go out the window?
And if the problem is the rabid Trump supporters, well, those people were out and about throughout Obama’s presidency as well. The 2015 anti-Muslim hate crime statistic that is constantly cited as proof that Trump incites hate crimes against Muslims is exaggerated. 2010 saw about 80% of the anti-Muslim hate crimes as 2015 and in 2010, there was no ISIS, there were no ISIS attacks happening every month, unlike in 2015. And when you look at the monthly data, you can see the hate crimes jump in the months when the major ISIS-related attacks happened (in France and San Bernardino in particular).
Even if anti-Muslim hate has increased, that hate wouldn’t have gone away with Clinton winning. It would likely have gotten much, much worse. For example, instead of Clinton supporters marching on all these cities as we are seeing now, it would have been mobs of Trump “deplorables” looking for blood, a much more terrifying prospect.
In any case, I am just calling for some sanity and poise and realism. If Muslims want to be proactive and work toward positive change, they cannot do that if they insist on operating under this skewed, naive perception of government authority and partisan politics. The problem is not Trump. The problem is not the GOP. The problem goes much deeper than that and it affects everyone, not just Muslims. And until we can recognize that, there is no hope we can make a difference bi idhnillah.
Those who feel that a dark, ominous cloud has descended upon them in the aftermath of this election, welcome to the club.
Summary: Let me put this as succinctly as possible. Attributing anti-Muslim animus and discrimination to Trump (and Republicans generally) but not Obama (and Democrats generally), especially when Obama has done far more to create the environment that causes that animus and discrimination for the past 8 years is nothing but myopic partisanship. It is wrong and it is dangerous. And it hinders those who are trying to work for change.